WALL TOWNSHIP — Christian Brothers Academy and Don Bosco Prep took to the ice at Jersey Shore Arena on Wednesday night jockeying for supremacy in New Jersey high school hockey.
When the dust settled and the final buzzer sounded, it was CBA, No. 3 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, who came out on top with a 3-2 triumph over top-ranked and previously unbeaten Don Bosco in a critical early-season Gordon Conference American Division matchup.
For all of the talent these teams fielded, it was the unlikeliest of heroes who provided the winning tally for the Colts.
CBA, coming off a crushing defeat over Gordon rival Gloucester Catholic, got that game-winning goal from senior Josh Scharf — 22 seconds after Don Bosco Prep had drawn even early in the third period — en route to victory.
For most teams, the early third-period game-tying goal could have been a crushing blow, one that could have led to the Colts folding for the night, but the Colts stuck to their guns.
“It’s just a testament to our composure,” CBA senior goaltender Jake Brown, who steered aside 39 of 41 shots the high-octane Ironmen offense fired his way, said. “Everyone played their role today, and because of that we were able to come out on top. We just came together as a team and focused on what everyone needed to do.
“Because of that,” Brown said, “we came out on top.”
From the opening puck drop, it seemed that Don Bosco Prep would run away with this contest. After killing off an interference penalty just 16 seconds into the game, Bosco went on to dominate the opening frame, outshooting CBA 18-5.
The physicality and speed that Don Bosco played with slowly appeared to grind down the Colts defense and the aggressive forecheck forced CBA to make quick decisions with the puck on their sticks.
“We were nervous coming out. We were not skating well,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. “Without Jake, we would be behind three in that opening period at least.”
After a scoreless opening frame, the second period was a whole different narrative for the Colts. The play of the defense anchored by Brown in between the pipes, allowed them to remain in the contest, just one bounce away from putting the pressure back on the Ironmen.
An interference call on Christian Brothers three minutes into the second period caused another brief dominant stretch for Don Bosco. With the Colts a man down, once again the Lincroft school turned to Brown and the defense to survive a flurry of attempts.
That penalty kill proved to be a turning point for the Colts, who despite being out-skated for a majority of the opening 20-plus minutes of action, put pressure on Bosco by striking first.
Sophomore Peter Vallebuona collected an errant puck in his own end and found junior forward Giovanni Crepaldi streaking down the right wing. Crepaldi collected the puck in stride and rocketed a shot from inside the right circle past goalie Max Schwarz to give CBA the 1-0 lead at 8:11 of the second.
The Ironmen showed tremendous poise themselves, collecting themselves and countering the score just 1:54 later when T.J. Schweighardt deposited the equalizer from Tyler Sedlak and Liam McLinskey.
With the game squared up at 1-1, the closing four minutes of the second provided back-and-forth action with both teams looking to head into the ice cut with the advantage.
The Colts (3-1) got what they were looking for when Crepaldi sniped his second goal of the game with a pinpoint shot over the shoulder of Schwarz and bar down off the underside of the cross-bar to put CBA back in control. The goal, with 2:49 remaining before the second trip to the locker room, were assisted by Vallebuona and Patrick McHugh.
“I thought we came out hard and had some very good scoring opportunities in the first period,” Don Bosco Prep coach Greg Toskos said. “Their goalie made some great saves and that gave them some momentum in the second period.”
“Once we settled down, we started to play our style of hockey,” Bogan said. “We were able to get the game 5-on-5 and the power play came through with a big goal for us.”
Crepaldi’s heroics, along with Brown stopping 29 shots to that point, put CBA within 15 minutes of defeating what may arguably be the deepest squad in the state. And truth be told, Don Bosco came out in the third period with a chip on their shoulder trailing for the first time after two periods this season.
The equalizer came easy for the Iromen, who made it 2-2 just 1:12 into the third and final frame when McLinskey put it behind Brown on a power move from the left wing. Sedlak was given a second assist and Damien Carfagna also picked up a point on the game-tying goal.
Just 22 seconds later, however, the play of the night occurred.
Josh Scharf, who was cut from the team his junior year, picked a glorious time to score his first-career varsity goal and put the Colts ahead for good when his shot trickled across the goal line on a fabulous 2-on-1 opportunity with C.J. Cummings.
“(Scharf) has always been a smart player on JV,” Bogan said. “He is so deceptive and is one of those kids that always seems to be in the right place.”
After walking off the team last season, Scharf was given a second chance to prove himself in tryouts
“He came to tryouts and worked his way into the lineup,” Bogan said. “He fits in really good.”
With Scharf’s goal in the back of the net, the deflation of the Don Bosco Prep game-tying goal just seconds earlier evaporated and the Colts were gifted with new life — and a new lead to try and hold.
It wasn’t easy as the Colts killed of an interference minor with 2:57 remaining, but the PK played their assignments to perfection not giving the Ironmen anything in terms of a scoring opportunity late.
“Most teams would pack it in, but we ended up coming back out harder than we did at the beginning of the game,” Brown added. “That’s just a testament to our composure.”
“The penalty kill seemed a little out-of-whack at times, but all in all it came through big,” Bogan said. “Jake and (Matt) Herrick played very strong defensively for us.”
Don Bosco Prep (3-1) falls for the first time this season.
“I liked how we were able to come back twice but we need to tighten up our PK,” Toskos said. “We also gave them two goals off 2-on-1’s — that’s uncharacteristic of our team. But it’s early in the season and we are still trying to find ourselves a bit.”
Christian Brothers will now travel to Middletown Ice World on Friday, Dec. 7 to play Middletown North at 6:30. Don Bosco Prep will refocus with games against Boston College High and Catholic Memorial on its yearly trip to Massachusetts.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: CBA goalie Jake Brown makes one of his 39 saves in a 3-2 triumph over Don Bosco Prep at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township, NJ. (Tom Smith/TSPIsportsimages.com)
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