HOWELL – Somber circumstances surrounded Wednesday’s Shore Conference Tournament (SCT) semifinals meeting between second-seeded Howell and third-seeded St. John Vianney, as memories of the recently fallen Rebel, Matthew Schiek, hovered in the atmosphere at Howell Ice World.
Schiek, a four-year Rebels defenseman from 2008 through 2011, was a junior engineering student at the University of Massachusetts when he was struck by a pickup truck on Route 9 near Belchertown, Mass. early Saturday morning while reportedly assisting a stranded motorist.
With heavy hearts, and Schiek’s number 12 sweater hung with prominence behind the bench, Howell made a bid to do what only its inaugural 2008-09 Rebels club – Schiek, then a freshman, included – had accomplished in program history, capturing the Dowd Cup championship.
However, the chase for the trophy fell short as St. John Vianney earned a 3-2 overtime victory and its place in the SCT title game.
“I’m real proud of this team,” first-year Lancers coach Mick Messemer said. “After a down season last year, a lot of the kids didn’t think this was possible, and a lot of people told me I was crazy for taking this job. But I saw a lot of potential in the kids on this team and the school itself. It’s awesome, and we’re not done yet.”
With the score tied at 2-2, Lancers senior winger Mike Gelatt gathered a bouncing puck out in front of the crease and snapped a shot past Rebels net-minder Bobby Dovenero – who made 25 saves – for the game winner, his 33rd of the season, early in the overtime period.
“I’m feeling good right now but it was a lucky shot,” Gelatt said. “I muffed on it and it went five-hole and caught him off guard. But we’ll take it. It’s a good win for us, and we just have to keep it going in the finals.”
Following a scoreless second period, the Lancers entered the third trailing 1-0, but senior captain Matt Kidney tied the game after collecting a rebound off his own shown, wrapping around the back of the net and ripping a wrist shot past Dovenero early in the third.
With five minutes remaining in regulation, Kidney put the Lancers ahead 2-1, accepting a lead pass from Max Allen, carrying over the blue line and firing his team-leading 35th goal to the back of the net.
“It’s good to be back in the finals,” said Kidney, who was a member of the 2012-13 Lancers team that won Handchen Cup. “Last year was a little rough for this program, and myself not being able to play with them, so this win feels incredible.”
St. John Vianney goaltender Jimmy Ellis proved to be the difference in this cup game as the Rebels out-shot the Lancers 40-28 – and 25-12 through two periods – but saw various chances thwarted by the senior captain, who recorded 38 saves.
“Two years ago when this team won the Handchen cup, Jimmy was a sophomore and he won that cup for them,” Messemer said. “He’ll admit that he didn’t play his best hockey toward the end of this regular season. But we told him this was his tournament. You did it once and you’ll do it again. I’m very proud of him.”
Howell knotted the game at 2-2 with under two minutes remaining when a Brad Becker shot deflected behind the net and was gathered by Lee McCarthy, who fed a pass in front of the crease that was hammered home by Kyle Hallbauer for his team-leading 35th of the season, sending the game into the extra session.
After a fast-paced first period the Rebels held a 1-0 lead as Hallbauer sent a cross-crease pass to a charging Anthony Gallicchio, who flipped a back-handed shot through Ellis and saw it trickle over the goal line for his 20th goal of the year.
St. John Vianney will play Red Bank Catholic in the SCT finals on Saturday, Feb. 21 at Middletown Ice World, after the top-seeded Caseys defeated fourth-seeded Middletown North 5-3.