RANDOLPH, NJ — With more state titles and NHL alumni than any other two programs in the Garden State, both Delbarton and Christian Brothers came into Tuesday night’s tilt badly in need of a victory.
While neither team got what they wanted, both Gordon Conference foes came away with a little something.
Tim Royse and James Falivene scored to give Delbarton, No. 2 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, a two-goal lead after one period of play, but No. 3 CBA came back with a pair of goals off the sticks of Gio Crepaldi and Kyle Contessa in the second en route to a 2-2 tie at Aspen Ice in Randolph.
If not for the play of both goaltenders, Jake Brown of CBA, and his counterpart at the other end of the ice, Delbarton goalie Brett Cleaves, the game could have easily titled one way or the other. Both goalies finished with 27 saves in between the pipes.
“A little harbinger of things to come down the turnpike I think,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said, already looking ahead to their next meeting with Delbarton on Dec. 30 at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall.
“Jake Brown has been the backbone of our team all year. He’s been really, really good — consistently,” Bogan said. “We leaned on him pretty heavily there in the first but he’s been doing it for us all year. It took us a little while to get our feet under us, but once we got going we were in it.”
Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel also praised the play of both goaltenders in what was a hard-hitting, defensive battle with chances to run away with it on both sides.
“Brett has been very good for us all year long and in the third period he made a couple of sparklers to keep it tied,” Shatel said. “He gave us a chance with a couple good looks of our own — two of our guys on separate occasions had the puck right in the goalmouth — but their goaltender to his credit made a couple of big stops.”
With the tie, Christian Brothers Academy, which lost back-to-back games to St. Michael’s of Toronto over the weekend, stands at 12-3-1. The Lincroft school is the only team in the state to defeat top-ranked Don Bosco Prep this season. Delbarton (9-2-2), the defending NJSIAA Non-Public champions, have lost twice to Don Bosco Prep this season. The 13-time state champions came in an uncharacteristic 1-1-1 over its last three games, still reeling being shutout in their last meeting on Jan. 8.
“I was impressed by their team speed,” Shatel said. “I can see how they beat Don Bosco. They have some depth up front and generated some good opportunities. We were fortunate to get out of there with a tie, especially with some of the looks they had on the power play.”
With the game deadlocked at 2-2, Delbarton defenseman Kieran Kraus was called for holding with 3:03 remaining in regulation. It was a tough call in the late stages of the game, but Cleaves stood tall turning aside shot after shot from the CBA line of Kyle Contessa, Evan Brown and Josh Scharf which buzzed the Green Wave goalie’s cage all game.
“I thought we got off to a pretty good start. We were really buzzing the first two shifts of each period,” Delbarton senior Tim Royse, who gave his team a 1-0 lead 1:29 into the game, said. “Both teams played fast. We just didn’t play fast enough.
“Ben Conrod made a great play, took a hit before getting it up to Kay Berezniak,” Royse, describing his first-period goal, said. “Lucky enough, I was able to find myself all alone in front of the net, he made me a great pass and all I had to do was put it in.”
Just 7:40 after Royse gave Delbarton a 1-0 lead, Falivene doubled it off a fine 2-on-1 break. The senior forward made no mistake finding a hole short-side, beating Brown above the blocker to give the Green Wave a 2-0 lead it carried into the first intermission.
“We had a nice breakout and the puck ended up on Michael Balzarotti’s stick,” Falivene said. “Coming through the neutral zone he made a quick pass at the blue line. I saw a slot, short-side, and roofed it.”
For as much as the first period was all Delbarton, Christian Brothers turned the tables and responded with a strong second period of its own.
“We knew we had to come out big and we didn’t. Delbarton is big, physical and fast,” CBA junior Kyle Contessa said. “Down 2-0 in the locker room, the coaches told us to pick our heads up, said we needed to keep our legs moving, move the puck and drive the net.”
Contessa’s line heeded their coach’s words and broke through 3:22 into the second period when the junior forward pinpointed a twisted wrister from the top of the circle to cut it to 2-1.
“Brown made a really nice pass, a chip off the boards and I just went in took a shot between his legs and put it in,” Contessa described his goal. “We just need to come out with a faster start. We can beat these guys. We had the puck in their zone 80 percent of the time. Just a couple of unlucky bounces.”
CBA was on the receiving end of a fortuitous bounce just 4:44 after Contessa slashed the deficit when Crepaldi capitalized with 6:54 left in the second period to knot the game back up at two apiece.
“In the first we kind of started off slow, but in the second we said, ‘Guys, we need to pick up the pace,'” Crepaldi said. “Once Kyle scored we got our wheels and got it going. Garrett made a beautiful pass to me on the back-door and put it in to tie the game.”
The two CBA goals in a span of 4:44 erased Delbarton’s 2-0 lead opening up play in the neutral zones as both teams took turns trying to make plays crossing the blue line. Both team’s defense did a nice job clogging up passing lanes and disrupting breakouts preventing either squad to generate anything consistent.
After the game, players from both sides were already looking forward to their next meeting.
“It’s definitely good to know we can put two up on these guys and dominate them, but I think the lesson learned this game is, ‘Never give up,'” Royse said. “We got too complacent. We need to play the whole 45 minutes.”
“CBA is a really fast team. For part of the game we were able to match their speed, but we had a couple lapses where we let them get in behind our D,” Falivene added. “We’ll need to eliminate that next time we play them.”
After a season-high 10-game winning streak from Dec. 5 to Jan. 7, Christian Brothers is 0-2-1 in its last three games. It will look to get back in the win column on Friday against Middletown South.
“We need to get back on a winning streak,” Crepaldi said. “Losing those two games (to St. Michael’s) definitely hurt. Luckily, we tied the game, at least we get a point out of this, but we know what we need to do next game. Got to keep our heads, get pucks deep and it will come.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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