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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — As Fordham Prep's players celebrated Tuesday's miraculous comeback victory over Iona Prep, the Gaels stood motionless on the far sideline.
The blank stares into the distance all said the same thing — did that really just happen? For Iona Prep, the nightmare scenario was Fordham Prep's joyous reality.
The Rams (1-4), who trailed 9-4 with 5:04 left in the third quarter, closed out the game on a 7-1 run to steal an 11-10 overtime thriller. Senior attackman Rob Grinnell buried the game-winning goal with 2:41 left in overtime off an assist from Colum Sleeper.
“Colum gave me a great pass that Ben (Andreycak) gave him,” Grinnell said, detailing the goal. “I saw (Iona Prep defenseman Vin LaRocca) come over and try to hit me and I absorbed it, saw the net and put it away.”
Fordham Prep All-American attackman Ben Andreycak sparked the comeback, ripping a goal with 3:56 left in the third quarter to trim Iona Prep's lead to 9-5. And it simply snowballed from there. Grinnell tallied all three of his goals during the torrid late-game surge, cutting the deficit to 10-9 inside the final five minutes of regulation. The Tufts-bound Andreycak slipped in the game-tying score on an extra-man opportunity with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter.
“We had great defense and our offense started clicking,” said Andreycak, who racked up a team-high five goals and an assist. “I think we just never gave up and that was the biggest thing we could do.”
Rams coach Len De Lucia wasn't the least bit surprised with his squad's momentous comeback effort.
“They got the fire in them,” Len De Lucia said, referencing the delirious mob of maroon jerseys. “Anytime we play Iona it's a personal thing for them. The offense started clicking and we got those transition goals. What we didn't do in the first half was clear the ball well and possess it well. We did that in the second half a little better and took advantage of what they gave us.”
It was the exact opposite for Iona Prep (1-2), which squandered a handful of prime scoring opportunities down the stretch. The Gaels, who held a 26-19 shots on goal advantage, attempted far too many stick-side high attempts. Rams goalie Conor Gowan (16 saves) gobbled them up with ease and then fired precise outlet passes to kickstart transition the other way. This was the formula that powered Fordham Prep's resurgence.
“Toward the end we were a little selfish and took shots we didn't need to,” said Iona Prep senior attackman Luke Wooters, who had two goals and an assist. “We kind of gave more effort in the first three quarters than the first.”
It was Jekyll and Hyde compared to Iona Prep's performance through two-and-a-half quarters. The Gaels — powered by a game-high five goals from junior attackman Billy Trizano — jumped out to an early 2-1 first-quarter lead behind goals from Shane Fee (2G, 1A) and Trizano. Wooters and Ross Schnitzer scored back-to-back goals less than three minutes into the second quarter to boost the lead to 4-1.
Louis Depaolis and Connor Smith helped the Rams keep pace with one goal apiece, but Trizano added a pair to give the Gaels a 6-3 advantage at the half. Trizano kept pouring it on at the start of the third quarter, whipping back-to-back goals in the span of one minute and 56 seconds to stretch the lead to 8-3.
“We waited for better shots and we were very unselfish in the first half and early third,” said Wooters, who made it 9-4 at the 5:04 mark of the third.
After pulling off two comeback wins over Iona Prep last season, Fordham Prep knew the game was far from over. The hard-charging Rams refused to panic and proceeded to stampede the Gaels.
“This is a big rivalry and we wanted this game,” Grinnell said. “We were hungry. Everyone in school today was in the zone. Coming into this game we were in the zone. There was no joking around or anything. We wanted this the whole time.”
That desire has helped Fordham Prep turn the rivalry back in its favor. After losing 11 straight games to the Gaels from 2007-10, the Rams have now won four straight dating back to last season. The two CHSAA rivals will meet again on May 4 and likely for a third time in the NYCHSAA Class AA title game.
“Hopefully it will be 6-0 by the end of the season,” Andreycak said. “We are going to keep working to get there.”
GAME NOTES: Dating back to 2001, Iona Prep and Fordham Prep have played a total of 29 times. The Gaels holds a slight 15-14 edge in the series … Luke Wooters leads Iona Prep in scoring with 11 goals, while Ben Andreycak leads Fordham Prep with 14 goals … Wooters aggravated a nagging hamstring injury that dates back to basketball season. He injured it on the final play of the third quarter and didn't return till late in the fourth quarter.
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass