It has been 82 days since Zane Wasp kicked the game-winning field goal to edge Chaminade over St. Anthony’s in the Catholic League football final, but the memory is still quite clear, even on the ice.
“The rivalry is huge. They beat us in football, so it is a little bit of revenge now,” said St. Anthony’s Joey Loiacono following the top-seeded Friars’ 4-2 Game 1 victory over No. 2 Chaminade in the best-of-three CHSHL finals at the Ice Hutch in Mt. Vernon.
St. Anthony’s (16-2-1) used a pair of late first period goals from Jason Morello and Michael Vaiano to set the tone of the game early on.
“It showed a lot of character, we hustled, we did all the little things to score and win the game and that’s all that matters,” said Loiacono.
It appeared that the game would head to the second period scoreless, but St. Anthony’s was relentless on the attack. The Friars mustered 13 shots on goal in the first period. They would get on the board with 1:20 remaining in the period when Joseph Slevin dished a pass right through the open Chaminade goalmouth, which Morello sent into the back of the net for a power play goal.
Their second goal came as the period was winding down. Merely 12.8 seconds left in the period, Vaiano was able to beat Chaminade’s Brandon DeStasio through the legs to extend the lead to 2-0.
“When you get a lead it’s much easier to play from ahead than behind. We could afford to do some things that you don’t normally have to do when you are chasing a team due to a deficit,” said Head Coach Jeff Stelmok. “It gave a bit of breathing space, let’s us roll a few more players, execute a bit of a different forecheck, some strategic play in the neutral zone, so it is definitely big to get the first goal or two.”
Chaminade (14-4-2) would return as a different team in the second period.
The Flyers came back with a heightened sense of urgency. However, each opportunity was quickly thwarted by St. Anthony’s goalie Dan Peterson and the blue-line.
Peterson finished the night making 26 saves, but really attributed his success in the net to his defense.
“I have a great defense in front of me clearing the net, and it’s pretty easy to stop the shots when you can see everything,” Peterson said. “The first game is always huge and it’s a best-of-three series, one game can mean everything and we always try to get the first game.”
Coach Stelmok agreed with his goalie, but acknowledged the play of his netminder.
“Danny has been our mainstay all year, he’s been our guy,” Stelmok continues, “our defense played well, we missed a couple of guys tonight due to injury so that kind of stood against us, but the guys out there held it together.”
St. Anthony’s would essentially close the door to Game 1 early on in the third period.
Merely 1:03 into the period, the Friars would capitalize on their second power play goal of the game when Bryan Whelan beat DeStasio for the eventual game-winner.
While the power play unit was a clear strength for the Friars going 2-for-2, the penalty kill was excellent for most of the game. St. Anthony’s went 2-for-3 on the penalty kill, but allowed a goal from James Henry to cut the lead to 3-1.
Slevin capped his night and the Friars scoring with 2:12 left in the game to ensure the victory in Game 1.
Game 2 will be on Saturday night in Coney Island with a scheduled drop of the first puck at 7:15 p.m.
“They are a great rival and it’s always fun to play them,” said Peterson. “A win is a win, and that’s the main thing.”
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