RANDOLPH, NJ — Defeating the 13-time and defending state champions the first game of the season is one thing. Posting a shutout in their barn in this fashion is something else altogether.
Tyler Sedlak broke a scoreless tie 4:29 into the second period and potted another just 15 seconds after the ensuing faceoff while Max Schwarz turned aside all 24 shots he faced as Don Bosco Prep, No. 1 in The Hockey Night in Boston Top 10, shutout and shutdown No. 2 Delbarton, 3-0, at Aspen Ice in Randolph.
With the game locked in a scoreless tie, Liam McLinskey sent Sedlak in on a 2-on-1 break and the senior captain made no mistake beating Delbarton goalie Brett Cleaves for a 1-0 lead. The line remained on the ice, however, and before Delbarton could reset, McLinskey and Hunter McGee set up their captain once again as Sedlak struck swift and true as a flood of emotions from the Ironmen bench spilled onto the ice.
“When it’s crunch time you’ve got to find a way to win,” Sedlak said. “Our line had a good shift. Liam had two plays, picked up two turnovers, two 2-on-1’s and great passes to me. I couldn’t miss.”
“Back-to-back goals — it was perfect — it really kept the momentum rolling every shift after,” McLinskey said. “The second one was huge. Our D did a great job of getting the puck up the ice very quickly all game long. It feels great to get the sweep in their home rink and really give it to them two games in a row.”
The game was a rematch of each of the last two NJSIAA Non-Public State Finals — both won by Delbarton — the program by which all others are measured with 13 state titles and eight Gordon Cups to its credit.
But maybe — just maybe — the tide is slowly starting to turn.
“This was just another Gordon Conference game for us so I don’t want to say we’re on Cloud-9 right because I think we have the ability to beat good teams,” Don Bosco coach Greg Toskos said. “Structurally, we played great. Really solid. But we did this last year — beat them twice — and we know we’re going to play them again so for us we’re going to take the two points and happy for the road win.”
Toskos said it was important to weather the Green Wave’s initial attack in the opening frame. Rolling six defenders, Don Bosco Prep did a great job of standing up the Delbarton rush at the blue line while forcing play to the outside. Despite being outshot 7-6 in the first period, Toskos said it was a good road period for the Ironmen.
“For us, a road game so you want to withstand the home team’s pressure,” Toskos said. “For them, they came out strong and hard and Max, I think, made the best save of the game out of both goaltenders with that glove save (on Michael Balzorotti in the first).”
Intent on keeping the Ironmen at bay, Delbarton came out attacking in the second period and nearly took a 1-0 lead when Max Williams got loose for a breakaway. The senior went in all alone on Schwarz but his shot sailed high off the glass. Play continued the other direction as McLinskey fed Sedlak for his first of the game at 9:31 of the second period.
In the blink of an eye it was 2-0.
“I was the forechecker on (the second goal) and I didn’t get on the puck hard enough,” Delbarton senior Tim Royse said. “Their goalie made a great breakout pass, they flew up and before we knew it, it was a 2-on-1.”
“I think we need to be more physical and stop on pucks,” Royse said. “I think we need to communicate more. We hadn’t played in a while so this was a big wake-up call for the second half of the season. We just need to keep doing our thing. We’ll bounce back from tonight. We’re confident going forward. We just need to keep working.”
After setting up Sedlak for his team’s first two goals, McLinskey scored one all his own as the senior created a screen on the rush, using the Delbarton defender to block Cleaves’ view before pinpointing a shot off the post and in to make it 3-0 with 3:47 left in the second period.
“Picked up the puck in the defenders feet and came down with speed,” McLinskey said. “I was all alone on a 1-on-2 and was just looking to get a shot off. I saw the defender open his legs a bit, used him as a screen and put it in. We really jumped out to a nice lead there.”
Despite being outshot 18-15 after two periods of play, Don Bosco’s made the most of its chances with its quick-strike offense with three goals in the second period to take a 3-0 advantage heading into the second intermission.
Delbarton battled back in the third and nearly solved Schwartz when Ryan Siffringer, J.R. Caganassola and James Monahan caused havoc in front with just under 10 minutes remaining in regulation. With a flurry of action all around him, Schwarz managed to locate the puck and cover it to put an end to the surge.
“Two breakdowns on the 2-on-1 goals, both McLinskey to Sedlak, and if you make mistakes in the neutral zone their stars will put the puck in the net,” Delbarton coach Bruce Shatel said. “It was a good hockey game but their stars outplayed our stars. Disappointed with the outcome but I think we’re better than we showed. And to Don Bosco’s credit, they’re a very good team with quick-strike ability they showed in the second period. They got themselves a good road win.”
Building off its season-opening 3-1 win on Nov. 24, Don Bosco Prep improves to 10-1. Delbarton is 8-2-1.
“We rolled six D and it didn’t matter who we were playing against because their stick work was so good,” Toskos said. “We limited a lot of shots. It was a transition game, especially in the third period. We were structurally in place being able to stand them up at the blue line and we were really able to wear them down.”
Despite the regular season series sweep, Sedlak insists they haven’t won anything yet.
“Yes, we went 2-0 against them in the regular season but it literally means absolutely nothing until you get to playoff time,” Sedlak, the team leader with 15 goals, said.
“When you go to Bosco there’s a winning expectation. Going into every game you want to win — you’re supposed to win,” Sedlak said. “We’ve got to find a way to win this year because the past two years we’ve been unsuccessful. But this year, we got something going for us.”
Written by John Christian Hageny / @JCCSPORTS
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