WALL TOWNSHIP — It wasn’t the result either team envisioned when it took the ice but the sour finish left a lasting impression Christian Brothers and St. Augustine are intent on not repeating again.
Twice, Christian Brothers took the lead and twice St. Augustine battled back to tie, the second coming on a controversial goal with 11:49 remaining in regulation, en route to a 2-2 draw at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall.
Derek Contessa put Christian Brothers, No. 4 in The New Jersey Hockey Private Top 10, on the board with his fine finish on the power-play 9:13 into the game, assisted by Corey Clifton and Tim Grable. St. Augustine stormed back just 22 seconds after the puck dropped in the second frame, however, when Bobby LaBrosse finished what Carson Briere started to make it a 1-1 game but the tie was short-lived as Dean DiFazio’s backhander off the set up from Nic Lidondici and Corey Clifton put CBA back in front just 30 seconds off the ensuing face-off.
Despite ample scoring chances on both sides of the puck, it remained a 2-1 game until a big collision at center ice between St. Augustine’s J.D. George and CBA’s Kyle Contessa opened it up. The hit created a mismatch at center as Brendon Shortall scooped up the loose puck at the line and drove in letting go a shot that some felt never crossed the goal line.
“Sean Mulhern was doing a lot of hard work at the blue line. I found the loose puck and just backhanded it in,” Shortall described his game-tying goal. “The third period we came out strong and played physical. We need to bury the puck when we’re given the chance.”
“We saw video and it didn’t go in but it doesn’t matter and it’s beside the point,” Christian Brothers’ coach Ryan Bogan said. “You can’t rely on (them). Refs get their hands on games but you have to do it yourself.”
Both teams were given chances to win with 5-on-3 power-play opportunities late in the game but each failed to cash in.
After the game, neither team was content. Each acknowledged the missed opportunities that slipped through the cracks and each felt it let the other off the hook. And with less than a month before the start of the NJSIAA tournament and the window for error closing ever tighter by the day, both teams vowed it would not let it happen again.
Christian Brothers (12-3-4) out-shot No. 5 St. Augustine 20-4 in the first stanza. If not for the play of senior goalie Giovanni Albano, who finished with 33 saves in net, the Atlantic County school never would have recovered.
“I thought the first period they took it to us,” St. Augustine coach Tim Fingerhut said. “We were on our heels but the second period we started picking up the pace and playing physical. When we’re physical, we’re a good hockey team.”
Albano’s play allowed St. Augustine to climb back in and Carson Briere made a deft pass to Bobby LaBrosse who made no mistake in making it a 1-1 game.
“I got a nice pass from Carson, looked up, saw a lot of open ice and skated wide before letting go a shot on net,” LaBrosse said. “I knew I was going to get hit but I took the hit and put it in.
“We need to fix these starts and play like we did in the third right off the bat,” LaBrosse, a senior, said. “We need to get back to our real game which is hitting. We’re a big-hitting team. Once we started hitting them we started getting to loose pucks and put them on net.”
“The goal was a stab in the heart,” CBA forward Nic Lidondici said. “We gave it our all every shift, up 20-4 in shots in the first but then they scored to tie it up. We knew we had to get back out there next shift and bury it and we did.”
Lidondici and Clifton worked the puck to DiFazio who returned the lead to their Monmouth County school with a well-placed backhand shot just 30 seconds later.
“Right before we went on the ice we knew we had to get the energy back,” DiFazio said. “I was in the middle, Corey chipped it ahead and it became a foot race. A got a stick on it, saw Lido open on a 2-on-1, gave it to him and he gave it right back. Once the goalie over-committed to my side, I went backhand through the five-hole.”
St. Augustine (7-3-4) battled back again, turning the tables on its opponent with an 18-15 advantage in shots over the final two frames. It never stopped attacking and after Shortall tied the game up for a second time three minutes into the third, it was given a glorious chance to take the lead when it was blessed with a 5-on-3 man-advantage after Clifton and Nic Dietrich were sent off for cross-checking and tripping, respectively.
Christian Brothers’ goaltender Brendan Behan made his best saves of the game on the power-play and his Lincroft school was rewarded in turn with its own 5-on-3 advantage after Mulhern and Jarred Hannah were whistled for consecutive minor infractions. Albano went back to work with his stellar play in between the pipes to ensure both teams would skate off in a stalemate.
“Obviously in the third with the penalties going both ways, I thought both team’s special teams did a great job,” Fingerhut, in his 11th season at the prestigious Richland school, said. “Both teams had good chances but it was a well-matched game, a bit of a see-saw battle but a real good hockey game back and forth.”
“We’ll take the point but we need to come out with better starts in the first period,” LaBrosse added.
Bogan liked his team’s effort but felt CBA let St. Augustine back in the game.
“St. Augustine is a good team but we let them hang around,” Bogan, in his 8th season at the helm, said. “We didn’t score when we had the opportunities but we’re going to build on this. We’re not where we want to be but we’re working on it.”
“Obviously it’s a disappointment,” Lidondici added. “We tried our best, every shift all game, but everybody’s disappointed in the tie. We need to bear down and finish, bottom line.”
John Christian Hageny
Lead Writer — HockeyClan
Buffalo Sabres Team Writer — The Hockey Writers