Christian Brothers Stymies Bergen Catholic, 2-0, to Advance to Gordon Final

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WALL TOWNSHIP, NJ — Make no mistake, there is no love lost between Bergen Catholic and Christian Brothers Academy.

With nine state titles and 10 Gordon Cups between them, the two parochial schools are bitter rivals and Wednesday’s cup semifinal was no exception as the NJSIAA brought in extra security and an additional referee to regulate.

Bergen Catholic was the victor in an earlier-season matchup, but Christian Brothers Academy had its way in this one as Zachary Wagnon opened the scoring 11:32 into the game, Kyle Contessa doubled it on a breakaway with 4.9 seconds remaining while John Donohoe stopped all 34 shots he saw en route to a 2-0 win for the Colts at Jersey Shore Arena.

The triumph sets the stage for a 1-2 matchup in the Gordon Cup finale on Friday, Feb. 21 as second-seeded CBA will take on top-seed and defending champion Don Bosco Prep at 8pm at Codey Arena in West Orange.

“We just wanted to dominate the first period because we usually don’t come out that strong,” Contessa, the Gordon Conference Player of the Month, said. “If we go down, we know it’s going to be hard to come back so our main goal was to get the first goal and hold the lead.”

With both teams looking to establish themselves, physically, the opening period was littered with bodies as heavy hits were levied at each turn. A dozen hits were counted the opening eight minutes, alone, as officials fought to get a handle on the action. Several open-ice hits and crushing blows along the boards sent the crowd into a frenzy in a game that quickly became a battle for field position.

The line of Contessa, Wagnon and Evan Brown consistently crashed the net and were rewarded with 3:28 left in the opening frame when Wagnon snuck one past Bergen Catholic goalie Brendan McCaskey from in close for a 1-0 lead. Wagnon didn’t get all of his shot, but the partial whiff threw off McCaskey who was in a good position to make the stop.

“Best line in the state bar-none,” CBA coach Andy Gojdycz said. “The chemistry, the skill, the talent — they definitely give teams a lot to look after in their D-zone, for sure. We said right from the get-go we need to strike first. They played with heart and got the job done.”

Bergen Catholic’s Antonio Arcaroli, who spearheaded the Crusaders’ run to the county title last month, was a force throughout. Arcaroli forced Donohue to make several big stops to keep the game scoreless in the first before ringing one off the post in the second.

John Donohue steered aside all 34 shots he faced for his fourth shutout of the season while Zachary Wagnon and Kyle Contessa scored for Christian Brothers Academy in its 2-0 shutout over Bergen Catholic in the semifinals of the 62nd Gordon Cup at Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township on Feb. 19, 2020.

Donohoe had to be at the top of his game to stymie two 5-on-3 Bergen Catholic power plays.

“It was tremendous. We were able to keep them off the scoreboard the entire game — it was awesome,” said Donohoe, who posted his fourth shutout of the season. “We were blocking shots all over the place. Wagnon had a heck of a game offensively and defensively — loved to see that.”

Bergen Catholic was without Devon Kelly, Nick Wallace and Mick Thompson. Head coach Tom Keough was also away from the team with the New Jersey Pee-Wee squad in Quebec City, but assistant coach Angelo Serse did not mince words.

“We played one bad period — one bad bounce and they got a win they didn’t deserve,” Serse said. “(CBA) took a lot of cheap shots at the beginning. Our boys got a little rattled. Then finally the refs started calling penalties. We just didn’t capitalize.”

Serse said the team’s inability to finish either of their 5-on-3 man-advantages was the difference.

“Not capitalizing there? That was the game,” Serse said. “They couldn’t keep up with us. They couldn’t skate with us — that’s why they had to hook, slash and take penalties. Our boys played a lot of harder — they’re more skilled — we just didn’t capitalize. Next time we see them in the state finals we’ll bury them (pucks).”

A cross-checking call on Jake Antonucci with 2:02 remaining all but ended any chance of a rally for the Crusaders. Contessa got loose for a breakaway and beat McCaskey on a nifty backhand deke with 4.9 ticks left.

Related: 2020 Gordon Cup Preview and Tournament History

McCaskey did everything he could do give Bergen Catholic (17-4) a chance to pull it out late.

“Honestly, I thought we outplayed them the whole game. They got one lucky bounce and I don’t know how it went in,” McCaskey, who finished with 24 saves, said. “And honestly, that’s all you need in a hockey game like this.

“Overall, we played good defense. We just had a little trouble getting the puck out of our zone, something we’ve had trouble with all year,” McCaskey said. “A couple times, especially in the third, we were scrambling. A minute-and-a-half in our zone just deflated us, but honestly, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I thought our effort was there.”

Brown said it took a total team effort to pull out a victory in front of a packed barn down the Jersey Shore.

“As the game went on, the third period, big blocked shots, everyone just sacrificing their body and got it done,” Brown said. “We’ve had some struggles, but the way we’re playing right now we should be fine.”

Related: Bergen Catholic Bounces Seton Hall Prep in Gordon Quarterfinals

CBA coach Andy Gojdycz won three Gordon Cups and three NJSIAA titles as a player from 1994-’96. He is now looking to win his first as coach after returning to his alma mater.

“Oh, man — the 5-on-3 — guys were getting in shooting lanes, blocking shots — the mentality changes when it’s a 5-on-3 — everyone was collapsing down low,” Gojdycz said. “A guy like Wagnon sacrificing on a couple of those shots and the other guys understood, too, believed it and got it done.

“It was definitely a physical game, as it should be, but there wasn’t anything outlandish like we’ve seen prior,” Gojdycz said. “Hats off to my boys. They came together when they were against the ropes and stuck to the system.”

Related: Gloucester Catholic Pulls 6-3 Upset Over Delbarton in Gordon Quarterfinals

Christian Brothers Academy, No. 2 in The Hockey Night in Boston New Jersey Top 10, improves to 15-4-3. After defeating Don Bosco Prep, 2-0 and 6-4, this season, CBA will look to make it three in a row against the 17-6-1 Ironmen in less than 48 hours at Codey Arena on Friday.

“We played solid as a team, everyone was moving the puck, we all buy-in and our goalie played great today — big shutout,” Wagnon said. “When we play as a team, we’re unbeatable. We hope to keep it going in the finals and win the Gordon.”

“We have our eye on Friday night,” Donohoe said. “We all know what we have to do to go to the next level.”

Related: 2020 NJSIAA Ice Hockey Tournament Seeds, Schedule and History

Scoring

1-0 CBA Zachary Wagnon (Evan Brown) 3:28-1st

2-0 CBA Kyle Contessa (Zachary Wagnon) :05.9-3rd

Shots: 34-26 Bergen Catholic; Brendan McCaskey, BC, 24 saves; John Donohoe, CBA, 34 saves

 

Written by John Christian Hageny  @JCCSPORTS 

Special to HockeyClan

 

 

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