WEST ORANGE, NJ — Don Bosco Prep has rarely been contained offensively this winter, almost always relying on swift forwards and quick puck movement from the blue line.
But the Ironmen had to delve into a bit of hard hat hockey on Thursday to advance into another state championship.
Tyler Sedlak finished with a goal and two assists, Zach Hammond delivered the game-winner and T.J. Schweighardt collected three assists as top-seeded Don Bosco, No. 1 in the Hockey Night In Boston New Jersey Top 10, rallied for a 4-1 victory over fourth-seeded and ninth-ranked Gloucester Catholic in the NJSIAA Private semifinal at Codey Arena in West Orange.
Don Bosco, which has fallen to Delbarton in each of the last two state finals, extended its winning streak to 23 games and improved to 26-1. The Ironmen also ran their winning streak against Gloucester Catholic to 13 games. The trip to the Prudential Center for the Non-Public final against No. 2 Delbarton, which downed Bergen Catholic, 2-0, in the other semifinal, marks the Bergen County school’s third straight trip — all against Delbarton.
The Ironmen are still seeking their first state crown.
In its three state tournament matches Don Bosco has outscored its opponents by a 19-1 margin. Gloucester Catholic (10-13-1) last defeated Don Bosco, 6-3, on Dec. 3, 2013. It marked the fourth win in as many tries for Don Bosco against its Gordon Conference rival, the most recent coming in an 11-1 triumph in the Gordon Cup semis on Feb. 14.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly,” Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos said. “We haven’t won ugly maybe all year. We had to come back in the Gordon Cup final against Delbarton but it wasn’t an ugly game. Tonight, we missed passes, we had turnovers and things that we normally don’t do, but give Gloucester Catholic credit. They were able to disrupt us for a while. It definitely feels good to go back to the final again.”
For the South Jersey school, senior forward Dom Garozzo provided its lone goal, but it was a record-setting tally. Garozzo netted his 31st of the season just 2:23 into the contest when he whipped an off-wing snapper from the right circle to give the Rams a 1-0 lead. It was Garozzo’s 31st of the season and surpassed the school’s previous season record of 30 set by All-Stater and current Calgary Flames’ star Johnny Gaudreau, who finished with 30 goals in 2009.
“It’s an honor,” Garozzo said. “I mean, he’s one of the best hockey players in the world. It feels great to have my name with his but I’m more concerned about trying to win the game. I wasn’t really thinking about the record. I wanted to win and maybe we were a little snake-bit out there. I got to finish a great play by Jake Grace and we got the lead. They came back hard and it wasn’t the outcome we wanted.”
Don Bosco was limited in its mobility through the middle of the ice by Gloucester Catholic, but Tyler Sedlak was able to strike for the equalizer, ripping in a cross-slot feed from Liam McLinskey for the equalizer with 3:33 on the first period clock for an even strength goal to make it a 1-1 game. The tally came a minute after the Ironmen had a goal waved off during a power play, the official ruling the puck had not crossed the goal line.
A key turning point came late in the second period with the match still locked at 1-1. Don Bosco was awarded a five-minute power play after a misconduct penalty was issued to Garozzo when Ironmen forward Jake Howard went heavily into the boards in the Gloucester Catholic end; and had to be helped off the ice. He did not return to the game.
Don Bosco only scored once during the five-minutes of extra-man advantage, but it was Hammond, a sophomore and converted defenseman, who knocked in the go-ahead goal and make it a 2-1 game with 1:50 left in the period. Schweighardt and Michael Rubin assisted on the goal.
“There were a lot of opportunities and the puck just came to me and I went top shelf,” said Hammond of his 13th goal. “It was a tight game. When we were losing there wasn’t too much panic on the bench. We kind of kept our edge and felt like once we got one we’d get another. I’ve been playing defense my whole life until this year, but I like it. It’s kind of fun. I was a healthy scratch for last year’s final but it means a lot to our team. We want to win it for everyone and really try to bring it home.”
The Rams defended well throughout much of the game, which had a nasty edge over the final period, and on the five-minute major, but the call didn’t sit well with coach Tom Bunting.
“That was the game,” Bunting said. “Don Bosco has as good a power play as their is in the state. Not only that but you take my best player in Garozzo off the ice for five minutes. But they were the better team. It’s not the referees fault we lost the game but it certainly didn’t help. We were playing a 1-2-2 and tried to clog up the neutral zone, frustrate them and get deep into the game and keep it close. It worked for two periods. I’m happy for Dom (Garozzo) to get that goal, too, and close out the season with the record.”
Garozzo was skating hard and attempting to beat his opponent to the puck and win a board battle on the play.
“I was just going hard for the puck,” Garozzo explained. “We got tangled up and he went down. I stayed on my feet. I don’t know why they made that call but sometimes that happens. I really didn’t hit him. It seemed like he lost his edge and went straight into the boards.”
McLinskey netted his 28th on the year with 11:19 left in the third for a 3-1 advantage before Hunter McGee extended it to 4-1 with just under four minutes on the clock with his 11th.
Don Bosco limited Gloucester to just three shots in the final period while throwing 17 at Christopher Liscio, who was sturdy in goal for the Rams in making 45 saves. Max Schwarz made 12 saves for the Ironmen.
“Honestly, I don’t think we came out as hard against them today as we did the last couple of times,” said Sedlak, who 39 goals this season. “But we knew when they got the lead what was at stake and we had to find a way to win. That power play goal by Hammond was huge for us. That was the biggest goal of the game. When we were down 1-0 we realized our energy had to be a little better and once we got going we’d be okay.
“Getting back to the final is the same special feeling, but it’s a little more meaningful as a senior. Having lost the past two years getting back to The Rock is special. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Written by Paul Bruno / @PaulBrunoHS
Special to HockeyClan
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