WHITE PLAINS – With the famed Turkey Bowl being canceled for the third straight year, the spotlight on the annual hockey game between Stepinac and White Plains got bigger.
In the Guy Mathews Thanksgiving Invitational tournament on Saturday, Stepinac parlayed the rivalry’s excitement into a comeback 7-3 win.
“I remember before I was in high school, I loved going to the Turkey bowl, and my freshman year, it started getting canceled,” Stepinac junior forward Justin Bernhard said. “This was all we had; I really enjoyed coming out here and playing against White Plains.”
The win was more than one for bragging rights in a rivalry; after being blown out by Clarkstown 8-0 on Friday, the team had lunch together at senior defenseman Liam Ulrich’s house before Saturday’s game to discuss what to improve on.
It seemed to have worked, even though it wasn’t readily apparent.
White Plains got early goals from James Carrier and Liam Broderick to take the lead, but Stepinac came back strong in the second period. Anthony Morea got Stepinac on the scoreboard 5:27 in, and the Crusaders dominated play for the rest of the period, and were able to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Stepinac continued to pile on the offensive pressure in the third period, and never relinquished the lead.
“After the first period, we knew what we needed to do,” Bernhard said. “We were playing right, we just had to play harder.”
Bernhard was named the Player of the Game for Stepinac, while Chris Schiavone, a junior who also plays on the football team, got POG honors for White Plains.
“Stepinac and White Plains, it’s a big rivalry out here, and since I couldn’t play in football, I wanted to play it for hockey,” Schiavone said. “But we needed to get out there and beat them. It hurts still.”
Player of the game: Justin Bernhard, Stepinac. The junior had a big day offensively, scoring three goals and adding an assist to lead the way for the Crusaders.
Turning point: Despite dominating play in the second period, Stepinac had little to show for it. However, with 38.7 seconds left, Bernhard converted a breakaway to tie the score, and with 25.3 seconds left, Mikey Miano scored to give the Crusaders the lead heading into the third period.
Stat line: For Stepinac, Morea had a goal and five assists, Miano, Brendan Cooney and Brian Donovan each scored a goal, John Morello, Jack Maisch and Michael Patterson each had an assist, and Tyler Rosado made 23 saves. For White Plains, Carrier and Antonino Cappello each had one-goal, one-assist games, Tillman and James Garnett each had an assist, and Justin Schulz made 33 saves.
Quotable: “Especially because the (Turkey Bowl) game got cancelled, we got a lot more fans this game; getting the ‘W,’ it makes it a whole lot better,” Morea said. “I’m a freshman, and I wanted to do it for the seniors and the team. We pulled it off, and it feels amazing.”