NJS.com Staff Writer
HACKENSACK - Bergen Catholic ice hockey head coach Dan May is very concerned with his team peaking too soon, something he feels happened last year when the Crusaders were unable to defend their state championship.
After defeating Delbarton in a huge emotional game two weeks ago, Bergen found itself on top of the rankings in New Jersey. The Crusaders promptly went out and were tied by CBA and lost to Hudson Catholic.
So much for peaking.
Back in the confines of the Ice House, BC returned to its winning ways with a 7-0 defeat of Bishop Eustace in a Gordon Conference game on Wednesday afternoon, as May continued the mid-season process of juggling lines looking for the best combinations.
Among the moves was bumping Brett Bandazian to the first line with Anthony Randazzo and John Goffredo and installing Ian O'Connell and Casey Giblin with Tom Keough on the second line. Both moves worked well against Eustace, as Giblin scored twice and Keough and O'Connell once each and the first line was on for the other three goals.
The win moved Bergen Catholic to 7-1-1 on the season and 4-1-1 in the Gordon, good enough to put them into a first-place tie with Hudson Catholic and CBA. Bishop Eustace fell to 0-3-2 in the division and 2-5-2 overall.
While May conceded that, "we were a bit full of ourselves" after the win over Delbarton, he did explain that, "the previous two games were played at rinks (Wall vs. CBA and Pershing vs. HC) that are 15 feet shorter between the blue lines and 3-4 feet less behind the goal line.
"We are a speed team that works very well on the bigger ice surfaces, like the one here (at Ice House), and that keeps teams from being able to slow down the game on us."
It took a little over nine minutes before the Crusaders were able to get on the scoreboard, but as they did throughout the game, they owned the play in the BE zone. The first goal, ironically, came just after Bishop Eustace had put its first shot on goal.
BC goalie Stephen Ritter made the easy save and fed defensemen Jason May, who in turn sent the puck to Goffredo, sending he and Randazzo in on a 2 on 0 breakaway. Goffredo came in on the right and hit Randazzo perfectly just to the left of the goal, where he beat a helpless Evan Kostka at 9:21 for his eighth goal of the season.
The second Crusader goal came just 19 seconds later on a similar-looking play. This time, Keough passed to Giblin, setting up a 2 on 1 rush with O'Connell. Giblin's pass from almost the same spot as Goffredo found O'Connell, who one-timed home his fifth goal of the year.
Bergen finished the first period up 3-0 after Keough picked up a loose puck on a Eustace turnover and went in on a breakaway, beating Kostka low to the stick side at 13:41 with his third score of the year.
The Crusaders then added two more goals in the second period, as May (from Randazzo and Mike O'Brien) and Giblin (from Tom Mapes) tallied. May made a rush down the middle on a power play for his score, while Giblin's was another breakaway.
Both Giblin and May scored again in the third, with Giblin picking up a loose puck in front and depositing it for his third of the year and third in two games (Keough and Mark Znutas got the assists). May closed the scoring with a slap shot from the right point just inside the blue line, his fourth of the season at 9:42. Randazzo and Ben O'Donnell were credited with the assists.
May was pleased with the play of his lines, noting that, "Brett knows his role is to make space for the other two guys, and he does that very well. He uses his size and strength and makes things happen. This was the second game we used that line, and we'll probably continue with it.
"Giblin is a player who has had knee and shoulder surgeries in the last 18 months, and the biggest task is to try and keep him healthy. This game was a good example of what he can do when he is healthy."
Almost overlooked in the win was Ritter's fourth shutout of the year, one in which he was called on to make just 10 saves. He is 7-0-1 with a 1.33 goals against average in his eight starts. The Crusaders continually foiled Eustace in center ice, and even when they did make an offensive surge, May, O'Brien and O'Donnell forced play away from the net.
The Crusaders had a 31-10 edge in shots and snuffed out four BE power plays, allowing a total of two shots in the four man-advantage situations.
The two teams will go at it again on Sunday in a 5:15 start in Pennsauken, but not before BC goes to South Mountain Arena on Saturday for a rematch with Seton Hall Prep, a team the Crusaders beat 5-3 earlier in the season.
"Playing away is always a more difficult game, since the home team gets the final line change," May said, "but we have to be able to win those kind of games on the road."
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