The St. Anthony’s hockey team is not that indisputable powerhouse that they once were, cutting through the rest of the Catholic League like a well-tapered blade on a freshly Zambonied-rink in the 2011-12 season on their way to a state championship.
They are not unbeatable. Iona Prep proved that this year, snapping the Friars unbeaten streak.
There is blood in the water, er, on the ice for the three-time defending champions. And the sharks can smell it.
St. Anthony’s though, still has their pride, even if their blades might be a bit duller this year, they still are in first place and still lead the league in both offensive and defensive categories.
“We remind the guys constantly who we are, where we came from and what we do around here and there have been flashes of it,” Friars head coach Jeff Stelmok said. “What we’re trying to do is work on consistency and maintain it. Tonight… it just wasn’t there; it wasn’t a concerted 100 percent team effort.”
Friday night at Iceworks was a 2-2 tie against Chaminade, who, along with the rest of the league, can sense weakness at the top and have come to challenge for the crown, only losing one game so far – you guessed it – to St. Anthony’s.
“We know we can play with them, no doubt about it,” Chaminade head coach Frank Bendl said of his team, which is in the middle of a gauntlet of top contenders without first line players John Stevenson due to a suspension and Andrew Veglucci, who is sick.
“Obviously every time we play St. Anthony’s we’re really pumped up and we always want to beat them,” Flyer goalie Brandon DeStasio said. “We just know that we can get them next time.”
Added Stelmok: “it just got bigger. It’s great for us, it’s great for them, it’s great for the league. Anytime you have that type of a rivalry it gives everybody something to look forward to. I wish we could play game three right now.”
St. Anthony’s was hampered early by a pair of penalties in the first of a charge from Joseph Loiacono and an elbow from Michael Blando.
“Those penalties did in fact cost us a win, potentially because you can’t promote any offense when you’re down; in the first period we took too many penalties,” Stelmok said, “and we beat ourselves tonight.”
Frustration further ensued when the Friars only went 2-4 on powerplay shots.
“I’ve got to give them credit for protecting the front of the net and staying on their guys,” Stelmok said. “We did promote a lot of chances but a lot of them came from the outside, which is probably the way they designed it and we’re just going to have to try to find another way to crack it next game.”
DeStasio is one of the reasons the Flyers have come so far this year, stopping 27 of 29 shots on net Friday night.
“Holding them off the board for two goals… that’s a very good game,” Bendl said. “Brandon’s solid, our defense is solid and we went with them. I asked him after the second period, ‘can you see the puck?’ and he said ‘no, they crowd the net’, they always have two players, our defensemen are trying to clear them out but you want to watch for any penalties, other defensemen are trying to push them out but now you have four players in the box. That said, he did that good of a job.”
That praise still doesn’t make the Flyers senior goalie any happier.
“It’s a little frustrating getting the tie, I’ve got to be honest,” he said. “You always want the win but it just shows how good of a team we have this year and the potential we have.”
St. Anthony’s opened the scoring in the first on a shot from Baylee Modungo before seeing Chaminade go up on two consecutive goals in the second. Michael Vaiano scored the tying goal for the Friars on an assist from Joey Slevin.
“Both their goals I think were just in front, put in rebounds,” Minarczyk said. “We’ve got to just get the puck out faster. Nothing really you could do, they weren’t beautiful plays or anything, they were just good, hard-working, you can’t stop that.”
Still, another palpable shift seems to have occurred in the rivalry between the two schools, again in the Flyers’ favor.
“I think it shows we can definitely beat them,” said Minarczyk, who scored the second Chaminade goal after forward James Henry put one in with eight seconds left in the first. “We’ll take it, it’s better than a loss, but we definitely would like to beat them.”
“It was big for us to stay focused and try to regain our discipline. It’s difficult when you’re playing against a talented team, I have to give Chaminade a lot of credit because they’ve really improved their game; they’ve gotten a lot better since we saw them the first go-round in the season,” Stelmok said. “We’ll settle for the one point, we’ll take it, we’re happy we can get it, we’re lucky to get it.”
Because he knows the sharks are still circling.1 2 3 F St. Anthony’s 1 0 1 2 Chaminade 0 2 0 2
Chaminade Scoring Statistics Player Goals Assts. James Henry 1 1 Michael Minarczyk 1 0 Joseph Anile 0 1 Brian Lynch 0 1
Chaminade Goalkeeping Goalie Shots Brandon DeStasio 27
St. Anthony’s Scoring Statistics Player Goals Assts. Michael Vaiano 1 1 Baylee Modungo 1 0 Joey Slevin 0 1
St. Anthony’s Goalkeeping Goalie Shots Daniel Peterson 21