At this point in the season, Marty Crouse would have liked to have seen another solid step toward improvement, especially against an opponent he felt his team should have handled easily.
In the eyes of the veteran head coach at St. Joseph, Wednesday night’s effort against South Windsor was more of a lateral move.
But a win is a win, no matter who it comes against. And Crouse was definitely relieved to see the Cadets turn what would have been an ugly loss into a stirring 3-2 victory at the Rinks at Shelton.
St. Joseph was in severe jeopardy of losing two points after South Windsor senior Josh O’Neal scored on a breakaway off a turnover at center ice with just over two minutes left in the third period. But senior defenseman Andrew Gore saved the day, scoring a power-play goal off a pass from senior center Matt Greenhut with 23 seconds left to deliver the victory.
St. Joseph (4-3) has now won three straight, including a 6-2 victory over Notre Dame of Fairfield, after starting the season with a 1-2 record.
“This is a big win coming off a good win against ND,” said Gore, who leads the team in scoring with four goals and two assists. “We just wanted to keep our momentum going. We worked hard in the third period on that power play, and we produced.”
The Cadets dominated the flow of the game, finishing with a 44-17 advantage in shots. But South Windsor goalie Aidan Cain kept the Bobcats close with a sharp 41-save performance, one that made Crouse increasingly nervous as the game wore on.
“We seem to struggle to put the puck in the net some games and make the game closer than maybe it should have been,” Crouse said. “I don’t think we had a lot of sustained pressure throughout the game, so being on the power play at the end really helped us along.”
Gore wasn’t on the ice when O’Neal picked up a loose puck near his own blue line, raced in on a partial breakaway and beat St. Joseph junior goalie Marc Van Etten (15 saves) with a wrist shot under the crossbar to tie it 2-2 with 2:47 left. But he was definitely in the right place at the right time on the game-winning goal.
The Cadets had a number of good chances on the power play but couldn’t get one past Cain. With time running down, Greenhut took a pass from forward Colin Powell and ducked behind the net. Greenhut quickly jumped out as if he was going to attempt a wrap-around shot, drawing Cain to the post. Instead, Greenhut sent the puck through the crease and the left-handed Gore was there to bang it home to put the Cadets up 3-2.
“I was just trying to get out there and help my team any way I could,” Gore said. “It was a great pass and a great play by my teammates.”
St. Joseph has always been a solid offensive team under Crouse, but this season has struggled to light the lamp.
That trend continued in the first period as the Cadets buzzed around in the South Windsor zone for what seemed like an eternity yet finished with just one goal and 11 shots.
Its only goal of the period, scored by Powell off a pass from Sean Smith on a shot that deflected off a South Windsor defenseman, was countered by the Bobcats just 13 seconds later on a quick wrist shot on the right post by Nick Jones to make it 1-1 at the first intermission.
Neither team scored in the second period with St. Joseph’s Christian Keator doing great work on a late South Windsor power play.
Senior Bryan Canfarotta put the Cadets up 2-1 at 8:08 of the third period off a pass from Ryan Corcoran. Senior Zack Usinger also assisted on the play.
South Windsor had just eight shots on goal over the final two periods but still found itself within striking distance of a win. That was before Chris Jones was called for a hooking penalty with 2:01 left, his third trip to the box on the night.
St. Joseph found the will to turn it into a victory, which could bode well for the remainder of the season.
“I definitely think there’s more in the tank than what we’re showing,” Crouse said. “Even against Notre Dame, our scoring prowess didn’t show up. We need it consistently. Years ago we knew we were going to get four or five goals a game. Now we’re struggling to get to that mark.
“But South Windsor didn’t travel all this way for public skating,” Crouse said. “So it was a good sign that we were able to pull it out.”