Mike Minarczyk knew what was on the horizon. It was hard to ignore Tuesday’s showdown with rival St. Anthony’s in what is one of the biggest regular season hockey games in Chaminade history.
That was the danger Monday night for the Flyers against St. Joseph by the Sea in the definition of a trap game.
“You are obviously looking at tomorrow, you can’t not,” the Flyers co-captain said. “But I think we stayed composed and got out of here with a win.”
Chaminade pulled away in the third, beating St. Joseph by the Sea, 8-4, in a CHSHL Class A game at World Ice Arena in Flushing.
“It was a big win for us because we needed to keep our focus,” Chaminade alternate captain Joseph Anile said. “We can’t get sloppy at this point in the season.”
Chaminade coach Frank Bendl said his team didn’t play their ‘A’ game against St. Joseph by the Sea. That’s not an option against the three-time defending CHSHL Class A champions Tuesday.
“Tomorrow’s going to define our season…We haven’t won a championship in this school in a long time,” Bendl said. “Tomorrow is going to define a championship, leave a mark with them and will set the seeds for the future a bit.”
Of course, anything but a win against St. Joseph by the Sea (3-9-2) would have taken some of the luster off Tuesday’s battle for first place with the Friars. That was a legitimate concern when the Flyers three-goal lead was cut to just one as John Maggio and Luigi Tirro scored in a span of 44 seconds early in the third period.
“We needed to just get a quick one to make sure they knew it was our game and we weren’t going to let them take it,” Minarczyk said.
The captain led by example, roofing a wrist shot just 12 seconds later for his second goal of the game. Andrew Verlucci and Anile also had two goals, while John Stevenson and Fred Ondris also scored for Chaminade (10-1-1), which is two points behind division-leading St. Anthony’s with two games in hand.
“We’re pumped. It’s a big one,” Minarczyk said. “We’ve been waiting a while to have a chance to beat them and we finally have a team that can definitely play with them. I can’t wait to give it a shot.”
St. Anthony’s won the first meeting, 7-2, on Dec. 6 and the rivals played to an entertaining 2-2 tie on Jan. 18. Bendl believes the line of Minarczyk, James Henry and Verlucci is the best in the league, he calls the Flyers defense the “rock of the team,” and that includes arguably the league’s best goalie in Brandon DeStasio.
On Monday, Bendl went with backup Francesco Rojas and the senior made 20 saves to earn a win that sets the stage for Tuesday’s first-place showdown.
“As soon as that final buzzer blew, we all knew what we have tomorrow,” Anile said. “We’re ready.”