STOCKHOLM, NJ — Matt Schoer has been lights out against the opposition this season. So when the Pope John All-State goaltender yielded four goals on 28 shots in an uncharacteristic loss to Bergen Catholic last night, redemption was on his mind.
“We needed a bounce-back game after yesterday,” Schoer said. “We need to keep battling no matter what.”
Less than 24 hours after suffering just its second loss of the season, Schoer and Pope John redeemed themselves with four unanswered goals to register its 10th win of the season in a 4-1 win over St. Joseph of Metuchen at Skylands Ice World in Stockholm.
Ivan Borisov gave St. Joseph a 1-0 lead in the first, but Alex Blaszak tied it in the second before Steven Spetz delivered a dazzling deke for the game-winner 1:50 into the third as Pope John rebounded in fine fashion. Blaszak scored twice, Spetz had a hand in all four goals with a goal and three assists and Mike Quatrella also scored while Schoer returned to form turning aside 21 of the 22 shots he faced.
“It was a good response for us, especially after last night,” Pope John head coach Ryan Brown said. “We were a little flat in the Bergen game but tonight our puck movement was much better.”
Pope John (9-2-2) has been among the most balanced teams in the Gordon Conference with a previous 3-2 win against Bergen Catholic on Dec. 14 and a 2-2 tie with the defending NJSIAA champion Delbarton Green Wave on Dec. 19. After finding itself down one to St. Joseph in the early stages Thursday night, the Sparta school turned a corner in the second.
“The boys were relentless today,” Spetz, who broke in all alone on St. Joseph goaltender Eddie Kaiven before deking the goalie right-to-left for the game-winner in the third, said. “Jake Ferguson got the puck at the halfwall and threw it up to me and I stretched their zone. I was able to get by their D, get alone in on their goalie, make a move and score.
“We just kept working, kept battling back,” Spetz said. “Even though we went down 1-0, we just kept battling.”
Borisov made an equally impressive move putting St. Joseph on the board first 12:29 into the action. The Falcons’ freshman split the Pope John defense before deking Schoer left-to-right and lifting a backhander top-corner, glove-side.
It would be the one and only time St. Joseph would solve Schoer, however.
“I took the puck, went around their D, added a little bit of speed, dangled the goalie and scored,” Borisov said. “The guys played hard but I think we gave up in the second period a little bit. We didn’t pick up their guy behind our net. Our defense didn’t see them and they scored four unanswered goals. I would’ve liked to have seen more shots to the net, pick up more rebounds. I think we did good today, but not as well as our coaches wanted.”
“I thought we played pretty well to that point,” Brown said. “Their guy made a nice play, split our defense and put one by Matty, but we regrouped after the first and adjusted real well putting a lot more pressure on them in the second and third, keeping the puck down on their goal line and wearing on them a bit.”
After Blaszak tied it on the power play 7:34 into the second and Spetz provided the go-ahead goal 1:50 into the third, Quatrella, who scored the overtime game-winning goal in their 3-2 win over Middletown North in the Protec Ponds Holiday Tournament Final on Dec. 29, added another power-play goal with 2:30 remaining in regulation. Blaszak iced it with his second of the game with 38.8 second left.
Pope John pulled away with three goals in the third period and Schoer, who went 5-1-1 with a 1.00 goals-against average, .950 save percentage with four shutouts in December, stood tall.
St. Joseph, meanwhile, drops to 3-6-1. The Metuchen school is winless over its last five (0-4-1) with its last win coming against St. Peter’s Prep on Dec. 21.
“Once the third period started we got away from our game plan. We wanted to keep a third guy high and we just didn’t do that,” St. Joseph coach Ryan Carter said. “That’s not going to help us in any way. We need to make sure we have that third guy back and we play five-man defense. If we do that we’ll be successful.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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