NJS.com Staff Writer
MONSEY, NY - Coming into the season, one of the things that Don Bosco ice hockey head coach Gene Katz wanted to do was upgrade the regular season schedule, with the idea that his team would benefit from the superior competition.
That is why the team was entered into the Secaucus Holiday tournament, and why they scheduled defending state champion Delbarton. It wasn't so much about wins as it was about a level of play.
The Ironmen came into a crucial early-season game against Northern Conference Red Division foe Pope John of Sparta on Sunday night at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, New York, and while the scoreboard would indicate a negative result, Katz saw the 5-4 defeat as another step in the growing process that he hopes will pay dividends come late February and March.
"I thought it was a great game, a very intense game and the kind of game we needed," Katz said after seeing his team tie it late only to fall on a goal against with 1:12 left. "It was a fun game, and in the end they got the better of us."
In a game that was penalty-filled from the get-go, Bosco saw leads of 2-0 and 3-2 go by the boards before it overcame a 4-3 deficit itself, but they were unable to hold of an emotionally-charged Lions team that was looking to prove that it could play with the preseason division favorites.
The win improved Pope John to 7-0-1 overall and 6-0-1 in the division, and moved the Lions three points up on Tenafly and four on Don Bosco, which is now 4-3-1 overall and 4-1-1 in the division.
The winning score began with a pass from John Alexander to Steve Delacalce, who fed Dave Branning on the left boards. He skated through the circle and launched a shot that beat Ironmen goalie Charlie D'Angelo (23 saves) to the short side with 1:12 remaining.
The Lions opened the door for DB to reclaim the tie, though, as they took a penalty on the goal. Bosco got the faceoff into the offensive zone and pulled D'Angelo for a sixth skater to create a two-man advantage. The Ironmen had a shot and a point-blank rebound parry saved by Jay Ortega with 38 seconds to go, then had another shot saved with the rebound trickling to the stick of Brian Tirri, who blasted a high shot that Ortega somehow managed to glove with 30.5 ticks on the clock.
The Ironmen got a fifth shot on the power play chance, but the Lions were able to clear the puck with 17 seconds left and Bosco could not make a last-ditch try for the equalizer.
"That's hockey," Katz said of the final flurry. "Their goalie had an excellent game, and their team was riding the emotion of the crowd (a good contingent made the trek from Sussex County and provided a lot of noise). For them, it was all on emotion."
Early on, it looked as though that emotion might get the better of the Lions, who were victimized for a shorthanded goal and a power play goal that had them in a 2-0 hole. Jeff Tynik provided the first score just 2:15 into the game, scoring a man down on an assist from Brendan Vint.
Tirri then put home the power play score, with Jorge Rocha and John Conte assisting on the play. The goal came 1:53 into the second period, but Don Bosco could not hold the lead as the penalty box began to see regular action on both sides.
Bosco would end up with 15 penalties for 49 minutes, including two 10-minute misconducts, while Pope John saw 12 infractions good for 35 minutes, with one 10-minute misconduct. Many of the penalties were coincidental minors, but the Ironmen did have six power play chances and could not find the net on their final five man-advantages. The Lions went 0 for 3 on the power play.
The two-goal Bosco lead was chopped in half with 10:22 left in the second, when Alexander and Delacalce assisted on a goal by Owen Vater, and PJ tied the game with 6:58 to go on a Rob Miranda goal, with the assists going to Vater and Donnie Ecchard.
Angelo Serse regained the lead for the Ironmen with 2:29 left in the middle stanza, as he took a pass from Mike Lynch and beat Ortega (26 saves) for a 3-2 lead that held up entering the third period. Pope John then got two goals within 23 seconds to tie and take the lead, the first coming with 11:46 to go by Vinnie Jacona from Mike Ruddy and the lead score coming off the stick of Alexander, with Branning earning the assist.
A penalty shot was assessed to Don Bosco after a big pileup in the crease resulted in an illegal covering of the puck, and Serse was called on to take the shot. He skated in down the middle, made a light move and tried to beat Ortega low right, but the netminder was up to the task and easily stopped the shot.
The Ironmen finally did tie the game with 3:33 to go as freshman Adam Basile, in his first game since being recalled from the junior varsity, poked it home. The play began with Adam Kaiser sending a pass from behind to Ryan Mathews, who sent a pass from left to right to Basile, who was camped at the right post.
"He's been scoring a ton of goals on the JV," Katz said, "and he got a big one tonight."
Coming off of a pair of losses (2-0 to St. Joseph of Metuchen and 3-1 to St. Peter's Prep) in the holiday tourney, it is now a three-game losing streak for DB entering Wednesday's 5:00 clash with Delbarton at Sport-O-Rama.
"We'll be alright," Katz reiterated. "We may have lost the battle, but there are plenty more fights to go. We'll get them again (January 31st at Shawnee, Pennsylvania), and I think we'll do much better. Hey, I'd rather lose to them now than later."
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