Weekly Feature

2018-01-10 / Sports

St. Joe’s hockey wins four of six

Sports Reporter

Kellen Pulera of St. Joe’s gets the puck past Clarence goaltender Matthew Binkowski in the Marauders 5-0 win. 
Photo by Jake French Kellen Pulera of St. Joe’s gets the puck past Clarence goaltender Matthew Binkowski in the Marauders 5-0 win. Photo by Jake French The St. Joe’s hockey team has had a busy few weeks. The Marauders just finished a stretch of six games in 10 days, when they went 4-2 overall.

The team travelled to Providence, Rhode Island, for the Mount St. Charles Tournament. On Dec. 28, they opened things up with a win over La Salle. Niko Pavicich score the only goal of the game on the power play. Ben Weppner got the shutout.

“It was a real tight game; it could have gone either way,” St. Joe’s coach Rich Crozier said. “We felt that strong defensive play was the difference in that game.”

The next day, they took on eventual tournament champion Fairfield Prep of Connecticut and lost 2-0. The team was unable to capitalize on its chances.

“They won the tournament,” Crozier said. “We were back-to-back tournament champions, but they were a real strong opponent. We failed to capitalize on our chances. They scored two late goals in the third period to beat us. We were disappointed in the outcome, but we got a strong effort from the entire team.”

The Marauders rebounded in the third-place game with a 4-3 win over New Hampshire’s Bishop Guertin. David Matthew, Ethan Louisos and Connor McKendry scored in regulation, and Matt Barralli scored in overtime to get the win.

“We were never losing, but we were up 3-2 going into the third period and they scored to tie it,” Crozier said. “Ethan made a nice play in the 3-on-3 overtime. He passed between his legs and Barralli walked in and scored.

“It was real nice for our offense to come alive after he struggled to put the puck in the net. I was happy to see us put the puck in the net and came home feeling like it was a great experience on and off the ice. The boys came together as a team and played some good hockey. We did a good job representing New York in one of the premier high school tournaments in the country.”

The team then came back to Western New York last week and took on Orchard Park Wednesday, winning 3-1. Freshman Jayden Baldinelli scored the first two goals of his varsity career and senior Jacob Barberio got a goal and two assists.

“The highlight of the game was freshman Jayden Baldinelli had the first and second goals of his Federation career,” Crozier said. “The other highlight was senior Jacob Barberio getting a goal and two assists, his line was plus-three. We outshot them 37-21. We felt like we were in control most of the game. It was a good league win for our team.”

The win streak continued with a 5-0 win over Clarence Thursday. Goals were scored by Spencer Frome, Matthew and Kellen Pulera while Weppner had another shutout. The Marauders dominated the play with 27 shots to seven for Clarence.

“That was another good effort by our team,” Crozier said. “We did a good job of limiting the shot total. Offensively, we did a good job of finishing our chances. I applaud the effort of goaltender Ben Weppner. That was his ninth game in a row starting us. He was fantastic through the entire stretch. He really has come into his own. He has waited patiently for his opportunity, so that was really nice to see him step up and play some of his best hockey as a senior. He was a difference maker in a number of games down the stretch.”

The winning streak came to an end Sunday when they fell to Niagara-Wheatfield, 1-0. St. Joe’s outshout the Falcons 22-9. The team was just unable to put the puck in the net.

“We just failed to execute,” Crozier said. “We couldn’t finish. It was just one of those things. We outshot them 22-9. It wasn’t our goalie’s fault. Dan Mikolajczak played his first game in a month. The loss had nothing to do with him. I don’t know if we just have played too much hockey, but we were lacking in intensity and passion.”

The team is now 9-3-2 on the season. While they are still among the top teams in the area, they have already surpassed their loss totals for each of the top two seasons. They’re looking consistently to bring an intense effort.

“We talked about this before, but every single night in the Federation, you have to give 100 percent,” Crozier said. “We’re the back-to-back state champions; we are going to have a target on our back. The result last night was just our inability to bring a consistent energy. We did that in the past six games, but it just wasn’t there last night. Credit to them for being opportunistic. We needed to make sure that we moved forward and learn from it. We need to bring passion to the ice that St. Joe’s has been known for.”

The team will next take on St. Francis at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Holiday and then Canisius Monday afternoon at Harbor- Center. Both games will have major implications for the Catholic school playoffs.

“We’re not perfect, but we still have a lot to give,” Crozier said. ‘I’m confident in this group. The Bills had no offense and we didn’t either. We got some practice this week. I’m confident we can get back on track. We held Clarence to seven shots and Niagara-Wheatfield to nine. They’re tied for first in the league. There’s nothing broken with us; we just need to start putting the puck in the net and the rest will take care of itself.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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