JERSEY CITY — When Christian Brothers gets its feet moving, it can be an awfully difficult opponent to slow down.
St. Peter’s Prep lit the fire and took the lead when Brendan Balatbat spun around and fired one home 1:51 into the second period, but it only awoke a slumbering CBA offense which erupted for five unanswered goals as the Lincroft school, No. 8 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, fashioned a 5-1 triumph in a battle of Gordon Conference foes at foggy Charlie Heger Ice Rink, Pershing Field in Jersey City.
“When you go down 1-0 you’ve got to keep your head up,” CBA senior forward Nic Lidondici said. “Every single shift, 150 percent effort, over and over again, keep getting shots to the net and the goals will eventually come.”
Lidondici deflected Chad Schneider’s shot from the point just under five minutes later to tie the game at one before he and Kyle Contessa scored again 1:39 apart to send Christian Brothers into the second intermission with a 3-1 lead.
Contessa’s goal, a shorthanded effort set up by senior captain Liam Noonan, was particularly deflating for the Jersey City school which tried to put together a late surge.
Blasting 26 shots on St. Peter’s Prep goalie Dan Maher through two frames, Christian Brothers Academy went back to work in the third peppering the junior netminder, who did his best to keep his team in it, with 12 more shots as brothers Jacob and Zachary Milone each found the back of the net.
“We started off slow but coach kept sending us out there, we kept working hard and took over the game,” Noonan, CBA’s senior captain, said. “We’re really starting to get our form together. We just have to keep coming every game, be ready to play and keep working hard.”
Christian Brothers (10-6-1) ultimately out-shot St. Peter’s Prep 38-12 in the contest. And in the waning moments of the tilt, it became physical as every player that came within a whisker of the puck paid the price.
“We know once we start to take control over games, teams will start to get physical. But we were ready for it, kept it clean and matched it,” Noonan said.
After a difficult stretch when it lost four-of-five games December-into-January, the victory over St. Peter’s Prep extended CBA’s winning streak to four games, which includes a stunning 5-3 upset over defending state champion Delbarton on Jan. 17.
“At the beginning of the season everybody needed a wake-up call,” Lidondici said. “But once we realized the potential we had, we went out there every single game going forward with that attitude and did what we do — play CBA hockey and win.”
St. Peter’s Prep (8-6-2) got a stand-out, 33-save effort from Maher, which included back-to-back stops on Noonan on a clean breakaway in the second, but it wasn’t enough. The Jersey City prep school was without senior defensive captain Geno Koehane and first line forward Shane Shell, but Brennan Collier wan’t making excuses.
“I think we came out hard. We knew this was a big game that we needed to have but we didn’t get the result we wanted,” Collier, a senior said. “It still shows a lot. This team can play with anybody, we just need to play a complete game — 45 minutes hard, 100 percent every shift.
“I think we need to take a step back and take a look at where we’re going and who we have with us,” Collier said. “We can’t look at the schedule. It’s one game at a time.”
Lidondici, a huge physical specimen that looms even larger on skates, scored twice registering his 8th and 9th goals of the season.
“Face-off play in the defensive zone, Will Hilfiker made a great call with a play up the wall, I beat him wide, got tangled up a bit but eventually got free and put it home on a breakaway,” Lidondici said of his second goal of the game which put CBA up 2-1 with 2:36 left in the second period.
“Once we pulled on the lion’s tail we woke them up,” St. Peter’s Prep coach Ken Such said. “They started to play with a lot more legs, a lot more aggression and urgency. Number 15 for CBA (Lidondici) is a man among boys. We just didn’t have an answer for him. Their best players are better than our best players and we just didn’t have the manpower to match them.
“We went with a 1-1-3 fore-check and played the game we wanted to,” Such said. “For us, it works best when we play 5-on-5 but when we get into trouble it opens up the ice against better skating teams. We just took too many penalties at both ends to maintain the type of game we want to play.”
After the win, Christian Brothers coach Ryan Bogan wasn’t ready to pat his team on the back just yet.
“There’s some gelling going on, some bonding going on, the players are starting to play for each other… we’re improved, but it’s still a little early to say,” Bogan said. “I don’t think the way we’re playing right now is consistent enough to get as deep as we’re used to going. We’ve got a long way to go but I like our leadership.
“Are we going to have time to improve down the stretch, make a push and take a run?” Bogan answered his own question. “This week coming up with Wall, Delbarton and St. Augustine — we’re going to know pretty soon.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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