WOODBRIDGE — Hockey players are among the most unselfish in sports. To execute to your fullest potential, one must sacrifice for the team on occasion. And when players are willing to sacrifice for each other, unconditionally, the true measurement of a team is realized.
Six different players found the back of the net for St. John Vianney as the Holmdel school put its undefeated record on the line and exemplified what is meant to be a team in a 6-3 triumph over St. Joseph of Metuchen at the Woodbridge Community Center.
That unselfish demeanor was never more evident than when junior Cameron Pape broke in on a 2-on-1 rush with teammate Rich Kulaszewski in the second period. Pape took the pass before unselfishly sending it back to Kulaszewski for his first goal of the season.
And what goes around, comes around.
Later in the third period on a 3-on-1 break as fate would have it, it was Pape who found himself on the receiving end this time with a mirror image give-and-go passing play with Jeff Ricci as the junior scored his second goal of the season.
“That’s how we practice. That’s how we play,” Pape said. “Everybody’s playing together as a team. It’s back and forth. Whether we’re setting each other up or finishing — it’s a lot of fun.”
Pape and Ricci each tallied a goal and an assist, and Dom Troisi, Colin Gartz, Jake Deatherage and Kulaszewski also scored while senior captain John Gutt distributed three assists to eclipse the 100-point plateau for his career in what was a total team effort from St. John Vianney, which improved to 5-0-2 and remain undefeated this season.
“I don’t think we’re supposed to be here,” Gutt, the team captain, said. “Everyone was doubting us. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season. But here we are proving everyone wrong — we’re just really a hard working team.”
“We’re just going to keep going up, going to keep it going,” Ricci, a junior, said. “Just a great play by my teammates. A great pass to Pape — a great finish by him — and another great play by Gutt to get me the puck and I was able to finish it easy. We all worked hard and pushed toward the victory.”
But it was St. Joseph which struck first 3:18 into the game when Mark Borek cashed in close with an assist from Ivan Borisov. Troisi tied it up for St. John Vianney just 1:36 later and the game remained deadlocked at 1-1 until Gartz capitalized on the power play with 14.1 seconds left in the first.
“We started off slow, but after we tied it back up we picked it up from there and kept moving,” Gutt, who picked up his 100th-career point on Troisi’s goal, said. “All these guys who scored stepped up and really put the puck in the net tonight. Some of these guys, Rich, Jake, they haven’t been putting the puck in the net but that’s what it’s going to take.
“We’re really proud of those guys,” the senior said.
Gutt now has 33 goals and 69 assists for 102 career-points at St. John Vianney.
Congratulations to @johngutt27 on his 100th career point!
— SJV Ice Hockey (@SJVLancerHockey) December 20, 2018
— Shannon Gutt (@shannongutt) December 20, 2018
But once again, St. Joseph got off to a quick start to a period and tied the game back up at 2-2 just 46 seconds into the second frame as Matt Samarelli scored with assists from Connor Kaczmarek and Andrew Costello. But St. John Vianney went to work on the St. Joseph defense with some crisp breakouts and solid odd-man rushes generated in the neutral zone.
After Pape set up Kulaszewski for a beautiful goal, Deatherage connected 35 seconds later in what proved to be the game-winner and St. John Vianney never looked back from a 4-2 lead with 12:37 left in the second period. Dean Rocco connected with 9:40 left in the middle frame to cut it to 4-3 but that would be as close as the Metuchen school would get before Pape, Ricci and Gutt executed tape-to-tape passes in converting the 3-on-1 break with 3:44 on the clock.
“A lot of inconsistency. Not enough shots,” St. Joseph team captain Ty Carter said. “We’re a team that needs a lot of shots, needs to get a lot of bodies to the front, especially against a team like Vianney with a lot of speed and big defensemen. Pucks to the net. That’s how we score our goals, Mark Borek, Ivan Borisov, Dean Rocco, pucks to the front, bodies in front… if the goalie can’t see it he’s not going to stop it.”
St. Joseph (2-2), which has played just four games this season, was outshot 28-13.
“We had a nice start, then we stopped shooting,” St. Joseph head coach Ryan Carter said. “Through two periods we had eight shots. You’re not going to win hockey games if you don’t shoot the puck. We’re trying to figure out what our identity is and who works well with each other. We’re certainly not making excuses. We’re healthy. We have our wind. It’s just a matter of not overhandling the puck and getting pucks to the net. We need those rebound goals. That’s what we need to do.”
St. John Vianney, which went 19-4-2 and hoisted the Handchen Cup last season, has outscored the opposition 35-12 this season. This was the Holmdel school’s first win three tries against St. Joseph at the Community Center in Woodbridge.
“It’s never easy coming in here and beating St. Joseph of Metuchen but we got the monkey off our back,” St. John Vianney head coach Mick Messemer said. “It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but we got the job done.”
Messemer has seen the unselfish play time and again on this team this season and knows it will take a full team effort from top to bottom in order to repeat.
“I’m really proud of the unselfishness. Back and forth,” Messemer said. “I told the team after the second period it was an ugly first two periods. But what’s going to win the game is unselfish play whether it’s those two plays or a hell of a backcheck by Colin Meany to save a goal. These are the little things that separate a championship-level team versus an average team.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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