Naturally talented. Naturally gifted. Natural hat trick.
Down by one late in the second period, Nicholas Lidondici tied it at two with 10 seconds remaining before scoring two more times in the third, the last coming with an empty net, as Christian Brothers Academy, No. 6 in the Hockey Night in Boston New Jersey Top 10, slipped past Middletown North, 4-2, at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Friday night.
Kurt Kroper struck first, handing Middletown North a 1-0 lead 7:55 into the second period. The Monmouth County school was in the mix to double their lead when Liam Noonan tied it up for Christian Brothers, shorthanded, finishing the play started by Matt Herrick to make it a 1-1 game with 6:03 to go in the middle frame.
Not discouraged in the slightest, Kroper went back to work and gave his team its second lead of the game when he found the back of the net again just 1:24 later as Middletown North regained a 2-1 lead.
The advantage seemed destined as Middletown North looked to skate into the third period with a lead, but Lidondici delivered a clutch goal just 10 seconds before the buzzer sounded in the second frame, assisted by Garrett Silverman.
“Our veteran leadership — Nic Lidondici and Liam Noonan — took over the game late in the second period,” Christian Brothers coach Ryan Bogan said. “Thought we started slow. Middletown North played well tonight. We regrouped in the third period and controlled the game and showed some character under pressure.”
Knotted at two after two, Lidondici took it upon himself in the third to give CBA its first lead of the game 7:57 into the final frame when the senior converted a power-play goal assisted by Noonan and Giovanni Crepaldi to take a 3-2 advantage with 8:03 remaining in regulation.
With their goalie pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Lidondici squashed the comeback attempt by tapping one into an empty net with 19 seconds left.
After falling to Don Bosco Prep and St. Augustine in back-to-back games, rallying for the victory was a relief for the Lincroft school which now stands 6-4-1. Middletown North falls for the first time since an opening day loss crosstown rival Middletown South. The loss snaps a six-game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) as Middletown North heads into the Christmas break at 6-1-1.
“We have great respect for the CBA players, coaches and history so anytime we can play them tough and make them sweat we take pride in it,” Middletown North coach Matt Clemente said. “We feel that id we can be competitive with them, we can compete with any public school in the state.
“However, we are not in the ‘moral victory’ business and a loss is a loss,” Clemente said. “Hopefully, we learned tonight that when we are faced with a top notch opponent, it’s the small mistakes that are the differences between wins and losses. As a team, we realize there are still some areas we need to work on in order to be as successful as possible.”
Christian Brothers is also taking measure of where it stands heading into the new year.
“Hopefully, we can retool a bit over the break and be a better team for the second half of the season,” Bogan added.
CBA goaltender Brendan Behan finished with 17 saves in net to preserve the victory. Jake Frontera stood tall with 15 saves in between the pipes for Middletown North.
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