WALL TOWNSHIP — Despite peppering Ciaran McNelis with 22 shots over the first two periods, St. John Vianney was stymied by the Red Bank Catholic goalie nearly every scoring opportunity it was presented. Turned away time and again, but at no point did the Holmdel school get discouraged.
“Ciaran is a great goalie. We kept firing but he kept making saves,” St. John Vianney junior forward John Gutt said. “We knew we were playing well and tried to stay upbeat. We just kept firing and stuck to our game plan.”
Keeping the pressure on, perseverance paid off for St. John Vianney in the third as John Gelatt added his second goal of the game while Jeremy Connor turned aside all 23 shots he faced in a 5-0 victory over Red Bank Catholic at the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall.
The line of Gelatt, Gutt and LaRusso were flying high, making crisp passes and feeding each other every shift. The trio never stopped attacking and combined for four goals and six assists to help St. John Vianney record its first win of the young season.
“We’re a great combination and we’re skating very well together,” Gutt, who finished with a goal and two assists, said. “We put five up on the board but it was a team effort. Their goalie kept them in it but we just kept pushing and pushing.”
“Gelatt, Gutt and LaRusso — we call them our red line because that’s the color they wear in practice,” St. John Vianney coach Mick Messemer said. “They’re all very skilled players. Gutt’s a grinder, Gelatt is a finesse player and LaRusso, who played defense last year, returns to his normal position and brings another element. They’re on the Shore Conference map.”
Gelatt opened the scoring when he took a pass from John Kennedy skating up the far-side boards and beat McNelis five-hole 9:36 into the opening frame. Despite firing 10 shots on the RBC goalie, St. John Vianney only had one goal to show for its efforts, however, heading into the first intermission.
St. John Vianney never took its foot off the gas pedal and finally broke through on back-to-back goals from LaRusso and Gutt 1:59 apart in the later stages of the second frame to take a 3-0 lead after two.
Colin Meany capped the scoring in the third for St. John Vianney, which was quick to point to the play of its own goaltender — Jeremy Connor — who stood tall in between the pipes to record the shutout.
“Jeremy has been our rock ever since he was a freshman game one. It’s his net and he hasn’t given it up yet,” Messemer added. “That sophomore to junior jump is huge, physically and maturity-wise. He’s started us off on the right foot and continues to bail us out, especially in the second period today when we got into trouble in the box with penalties.”
“Bragging rights now,” Connor said. “It’s huge. At the beginning of the season it’s important to get off on the right foot.”
Despite the setback, Red Bank Catholic coach Joseph Zdeb was still pleased with the play of his team in its season-opener.
“We have a young core and they saw today the speed and what Shore Conference hockey is like,” Zdeb said. “It wasn’t the result we wanted but it was a good effort. There’s some stuff we can build on. We’ll get back at it tomorrow night.
“I thought Ciaran played great,” Zdeb continued. “He held us in there and gave us the opportunity to get back into the game. We had a couple power play opportunities early in the game. We pop one of those in maybe we have a different outcome.”
“SJV is a great team. They have some good players and are a fast-paced team,” McNelis said.
“It’s going to take us a little bit to catch up to that pace but once we do we’re going to be right up there with team’s like that. We just have to stick to our system better. We got a little out of order. If we stick to our system, we’re going to be a better hockey club. We need to stick to that.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
Special to HockeyClan
Main Image: St. John Vianney goaltender Jeremy Connor makes one of his 23 saves in the shutout. (Tom Smith/TSPImages)
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