It wasn’t so much a clash of titans scrapping at the Jersey Shore Arena on Thursday evening, but more a David and Goliath-type entanglement, as perennial state contender CBA played host to fellow Shore Conference power St. Rose in a second round Non-Public state tournament battle.
While CBA earned a first-round bye as the tournament’s third-seed, No. 19-seeded St. Rose played its way into the round of 16 with an upset victory over No. 14 Bishop Eustace on Tuesday. But the Frozen Roses’ magic ran out as the Colts skated to a 7-1 victory.
“For a change we started playing together,” CBA coach Ryan Bogan said. “That hasn’t always been the case this season. I was also very happy with our power play. We got some different looks, we were able to try a few different things, and they worked well. But I think as a team we really came together today and were able to finish a team off that really played us hard.”
CBA opened the scoring 6:26 into the opening session when Bobby Hampton soared down the left wing on an odd-man runs and accepted a cross-crease pass from Christian Winters, before ladling a back-hand shot through the open legs of St. Rose’s Andrew Terracciano for his team-leading 29th goal of the year.
A finally fully healthy Anthony Cusanelli, who battled a nagging ankle injury through the first portion of the season, extended the Colts lead to 2-0 with eight seconds remaining in the first after intercepting an errant pass across neutral ice, skating into the Frozen Roses’ zone alone, and beating Terracciano blocker-side.
“Cusanelli’s line and one other are who we rely upon to put the puck in the net,” Bogan said, “and his timing, commitment, strength, and brains are peaking at the right time of year.”
The second period saw much of the same for CBA as the Colts quickly transitioned from the penalty kill to the offensive attack, as Connor Tierney poked the puck free in the neutral zone and fronted another odd-man rush. The senior slowed and held before dumping it to the right wing for a charging Brendan van Riemsdyk who deposited his 18th of the year to the back of the net for a 3-0 lead at 5:57.
Van Riemsdyk followed with another marker in the waning seconds of the second period, as the CBA power play saw tick-tick passing by Hampton and Cusanelli find the senior in the low slot. van Rimesdyk rolled the puck to the toe of his stick and ripped a wrist shot for his 19th of the season at 14:52.
“It feels great that we finally got it rolling tonight,” van Riemsdyk said. “The boys have been very unselfish with the puck, especially Bobby (Hampton). He knows this is our senior year, that we’re looking to get it done, and that Anthony and I are going to bear down and bury it. They’re very trusting of us, and we’re trying to capitalize as much as possible.”
“This St. Rose team, we knew not to take them lightly,” van Riemsdyk continued. “They were coming off a pretty hot Shore Conference Tournament and we wanted to get out to a fast start and try to bury them early.”
Terracciano kept St. Rose in the game by turning away 51 of 58 shots faced (including 39 of 43 in the first two periods) and the Frozen Roses entered the third period as they often do — with fire and emotion. Their intensity paid off at 2:29, when an aggressive fore-check by Alex Phipps provided Ian McGirr a chance in the high slot, and the senior drilled a rising wrist shot off the glove of CBA’s Bobby Cernero, who mad 22 saves in the victory, cutting the lead to 4-1.
However, CBA’s Billy Antonides added a power play goal midway through the third and Bobby Hampton piggybacked that tally with his second of the game, and 30th of the year, to secure the victory and a trip to the Non Public quarterfinals where the Colts will host No. 11 St. Joseph of Metuchen on Monday at 5 p.m. in Jersey Shore Arena.
“We have a nice confidence built up heading into our game with Metuchen,” van Riemsdyk continued, “but you never want to take anything for granted. Metuchen is a team that can play with anybody in the state. They tied Delbarton, so that speaks volumes about that team.”
“It was only a matter of time before we put it all together. We were all a little banged up at the beginning of the year, and now we’re finally getting back to the way we’re capable of playing the game, and if we continue on this way we’ll be a tough team to beat.”
As for St. Rose, coach Dan Grothues is confident his Frozen Roses will pick up where they left off in 2014-15.
“We accomplished a lot this year,” Grothues said. “That Shore Conference run was unforgettable. We won the South Mountain Holiday Tournament. We won our first state tournament game in program history. So, this was a great group of guys that came together and rallied around the fact that they found ways to win as a team, without a 60-point scorer…The next group coming up has big shoes to fill, but we learned a lot this season, and I don’t think we’ll miss a beat next year.”