WALL TOWNSHIP — Kevyn Rigatti turned in a hat trick while Jeremy Connor was unbeatable in net as top-seeded St. John Vianney skated to a 4-0 shutout victory over ninth-seeded Red Bank Catholic in the semifinals of the Handchen Cup at the Jersey Shore Arena.
Rigatti got the scoring started late in the second period in support of Connor who stopped all 13 shots the Caseys fired at him in the victory. John Gelatt was credited with a goal and John Gutt assisted on each of the first three goals for the Lancers bringing his team-leading assist total to 47.
Red Bank Catholic goaltender Kieran McNelis made sure that the Caseys would have a fighting chance, however, steering aside 16 shots in the opening period alone – as well as 15 in the second period – on his way to a 41 save performance.
“We had to create traffic. We had to get shots on Kieran, because he was playing great,” Rigatti said. “Once we got that first goal in I knew more and more would come.”
Rigatti was finally able to solve McNelis on the final shot of the second period after he poked home a puck in front of the crease with 13.7 seconds remaining to jump St. John Vianney out to the 1-0 lead. John Kennedy and Gutt were credited with assists.
The scoring poured over into the third period as Rigatti lit the lamp a second time 1:59 in from Ryan Kulaszewski and Gutt to double the Lancers lead before Gelatt them found the twine with 10:53 remaining with his team-leading 29th goal and 65th point of the season created a little more breathing room with a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard.
St. John Vianney (18-3-2) took a major penalty with 8:34 remaining to give Red Bank Catholic (9-11-3) a sliver of hope, but the Lancers’ penalty kill was spot-on going a perfect 3-for-3 on the night.
With the goalie pulled late in the game, Rigatti capped off the scoring with the empty-netter for the senior’s first hat trick of the season.
“We stuck to our system and played a smart team game,” Connor said. “We had to stay patient and wait for one to go in.”
The Lancers have now outscored Central Regional and Red Bank Catholic by a combined score of 18-0 over their first two Handchen Cup games. The attention now turns to the championship game upcoming against Middletown South.
“We have to make sure that we are solid going in on both the power-play and breakouts,” Rigatti said.
The Handchen Cup Championship game will take place Thursday, Feb. 15 at 5:45 p.m. at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall.
Middletown South 4, Jackson Memorial 1 (Handchen Semifinals)
Deven Ralph led the way for fourth-seeded Middletown South as they defeated fifth-seeded Jackson Memorial by a score of 4-1.
Nick Lioudakis added three assists while Mike Racioppi was credited with two. Racioppi eclipsed the 100-point plateau in the Mayor’s Cup and Lioudakis is now sitting at 93 career points heading into the Handchen Cup Final against St. John Vianney.
Marc Connor opened the scoring 10:09 into the first period on a goal assisted by Andrew Bohner. Kevin Lalley had the Jaguars lone goal with assists credited to Nick Swain and Cody Jablonski.
Clay Simonson stopped 23 shots for the Eagles while Matt Pousson made 21 saves in defeat. Middletown South’s man-advantage was a perfect 2-for-2 and they also added a short-handed tally.
Middletown South improves to 14-4-2. Jackson Memorial is 15-5-1.
Written by Casey J. Krish / @CaseyKrish
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: St. John Vianney goalie Jeremy Connor makes a kick save late in the game to keep his shutout alive against Red Bank Catholic on Feb. 13, 2018 at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall. (Photo by Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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