A year ago, St. Anthony’s rolled through the CHSHL to win a third straight Class A title and capped an undefeated season with a first-ever state championship.
The Friars are still the favorites this year, but there’s a belief that the Class A crown is up for grabs.
“I think any team has a shot at it,” Chaminade forward John Stevenson said. “We’re a pretty young team, but I think St. Anthony’s doesn’t have the superstar team it had last year. I think we have a pretty good shot at it.”
The Flyers believe they have the necessary ingredients to be in the mix – a strong goaltender, a stout defense and a productive first line. All were on display in a 6-3 victory over Fordham Prep at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon Sunday night.
“It’s a great holiday win,” Chaminade coach Frank Bendl said.
Brandon DeStasio made 19 saves, including stopping Trevor Turnbull and Nick Fiorentino on point-blank attempts in the first period. The second save came seven seconds before Robert Chory’s unassisted goal gave Chaminade (3-1-0) a 1-0 lead with 18 seconds left in the opening period.
“Brandon was our MVP last year and I think he’s the best goalie in the league,” forward Mike Minarczyk said. “He gives us a shot every night.”
While it took the Flyers power play some time to click, Minarczyk scored an unassisted shorthanded goal, putting a wrist shot past Fordham Prep goaltender William Wrontniak (21 saves) at 4:06 of the second period.
“I love playing shorthanded,” Minarczyk said. “I think the defense finally gets a chance to be offensive so you can catch them sleeping once in a while if you hustle.”
Mike Withers scored the first of his two goals three minutes later, but John Oddo’s one-timer from the right circle gave the Flyers a 3-1 lead heading into the third.
John Stevenson scored the first of his two power play goals 49 seconds into the third period. The Flyers were 2-for-5 with the man advantage. Fordham Prep was 0-for-2 on the power play.
“I think we were being a little bit too complicated and we started simplifying it and it started working,” Stevenson said.
Added Bendl: “We talked before the game about staying out of the box and we did for the most part and we got a couple of opportunities and we converted.”
Withers again pulled Fordham Prep (3-4-0) within two goals when he roofed a wrist shot at 12:38 of the third period, but Minarczyk put the finishing touches on an impressive victory with an empty net goal with 19 seconds left.
Bendl extoled his first line of Minarczyk, Stevenson and Anile. Most of the team’s offensive production in lopsided wins against St. Mary’s and Iona Prep, a team that has beaten St. Anthony’s twice this season, came from that line.
The same was true Sunday as they combined for four goals and three assists.
“We’ve been working really well this year,” Minarczyk said. “We’re just clicking. We’ve been playing together for a while and the chemistry was there coming into the year.”