JERSEY CITY — After the two-hour drive from Atlantic to Hudson County, St. Augustine was bent on leaving a lasting impression.
St. Augustine out-hit, out-shot and out-muscled its Gordon Conference rival as Kyle Knight turned in a hat trick, Peter Poulianas added a goal and an assist while Ben Sheehan turned aside 26 of 27 shots to fashion a convincing 5-1 triumph over St. Peter’s Prep at the open-air Charlie Heger Ice Rink at Pershing Field.
There was no hangover for the Richland school after the 110-mile trek north as Cameron Briere set up Anthony Carella 3:15 into the game before Knight doubled it 26 seconds into the second before scoring two more times in the third in a game filled with heavy open-ice hits and strong, fierce puck-possession battles along the boards.
For the St. Augustine senior forward who tallied his team-leading 7th, 8th and 9th goals of the season, it was important to come out and set the tone from the drop of the puck.
“It shows intimidation,” Knight said. “It’s always important to get in there early and set the tone of the game. That tends to be our style of play — get in the other team’s face, create havoc and work low. It’s always tough coming from so far away in South Jersey, the bus legs, getting up here, but we found a way. It was a cool experience. This rink’s not like the other ones.”
Knight would also pick up an assist on St. Augustine’s third goal of the game to make it 3-0, a pivotal goal which came off the stick of Poulianas with 1.2 seconds left in the second period, which all but squashed any comeback attempt from St. Peter’s Prep.
“They’re a very good team. They move the puck real well. Good skaters with good skill sets,” St. Peter’s Prep coach Ken Such said. “They had us on our heels for a good portion of the game. There was a point where we raised our game to their level but every mistake we made they capitalized.”
The physical play created space for St. Augustine in the third, allowing Knight to weave in and out of traffic and bury another one to put his team up by four with 5:05 remaining in regulation.
“Matt Boczar picked up the puck, skated down the wing, cut across and gave me a little drop pass,” Knight said. “I picked it up and went over his glove. We managed the game. Just have to keep working hard.”
St. Peter’s Prep got on the board with 3:37 left when Brandon Balatbat crashed the net and finished the play started by Charlie Nadrowski.
“It popped out to me, I came through the middle, shot it and it trickled in,” Balatbat said. “I saw the puck go in. It went five-hole and just fluttered through his legs. The goalie had no clue where it was. We were just waiting for the refs to call it.”
With Dan Maher (25 saves) pulled in favour of an extra attacker, Knight found an empty net to complete the hat trick and stretch St. Augustine’s unbeaten streak to four (3-0-1). There will be no rest for the weary as the Richland school faces Bishop Eustace tomorrow and defending NJSIAA Non-Public State Champion Delbarton twice over the next seven days.
“These kind of wins are the best, two points that you really need to get to the playoffs,” Cameron Briere, who picked up a pair of assists, said. “Getting the first goal in an away game is a nice boost. We’re a fairly bigger, stronger team. We rely a lot not so much on individual player scoring, it’s a lot more of that team shot on net, rebound, crashing the net — that’s out style.”
“I was really pleased from goaltending right on through,” St. Augustine coach Tim Fingerhut said. “Ben came out and really tracked the puck in goal today and minimized their opportunities. I thought our defense did a pretty good job of not getting caught too often. We gave up a few odd-man rushes we have to clean up but for the most part we were moving the puck quick in transition.
“We have some guys that can really throw their weight,” Fingerhut added. “If you’re going to compete with the big boys in the league, you’ve got to come out and play physical against the Delbarton’s, Don Bosco’s and CBA. The only way to slow down speed is to hit it.”
After a slow start, St. Augustine improves to 6-4-1. St. Peter’s Prep, which battled valiantly for two periods, is 4-4-2 with just one win in its last four games.
“It was hard competition,” Balatbat said. “The boys were going strong but we couldn’t get enough bounces tonight. We just need to capitalize on our chances. We had a couple but couldn’t bury them. We got one but let a five-minute power play slip away so we need to work on that.”
“We’ve got be more sound defensively. We have to make better decisions,” Such added. “We’re holding the puck a little too long. We’re not making quick passes. Need those quick decisions — they capitalized on our mistakes.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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