By RYAN LAWRENCE
Minutes after AC/DC's final pregame song blared on the speakers inside Pennsauken's Skate Zone, the ice hockey teams from Bishop Eustace and Middletown South came out like a pair of teams ready to shake the healthy-sized crowd all night long.
The Crusaders and Eagles traded goals twice in the game's fast-paced, first four minutes. Fortunately for the home team, the scoring continued throughout the entirety of the Southern Conference Red Division matinee Friday.
Bishop Eustace -- two-time defending Red Division champions -- got a hat trick from junior Tyler Hancock and two goals a piece from seniors Mike Dwier and Kevin Grunther to cruise by Middletown South 9-3 in the Crusaders' 2005-06 season debut.
"It was pretty surprising," said Dwier of the early back-and-forth goals. "It looked like the new NHL out there for a while."
Just 39 seconds into its season, Bishop Eustace jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to effective passing behind the Eagles net. With a defender on his tail, Kevin Grunther backhanded a pass to Hancock.
Hancock quickly found Chris Costanza on the left post and Costanza wasted little time slamming it in.
Just over 30 seconds later, Middletown's Lou Maluasi scored the first of his two goals on the game to even it up. A mere 1:04 later, Grunther got a hold of a loose puck inside the Middletown end and wristed a shot by goalie R.J. Herring to put Eustace ahead 2-1.
Ninety seconds later, however, Chris Curchin banged home a goal to tie the game off a 2-on-1 breakaway.
The visiting team appeared to have the next best chance to take control of the see-saw battle when it received a four-minute power play with 8:07 left in the opening period. But Eustace was the team that decided to keep attacking the goal.
After Crusaders goalie Colin Saltiel made a nifty glove save, Dwier raced down the opposite end of the ice and corralled the puck after a defender tripped up. He lifted it top shelf into the net for the short-handed goal.
Before the high-scoring period came to an end, Hancock scored and Dwier collected his second goal to put Eustace ahead 5-2.
"It's a great start," Hancock said. "We just had a lot of intensity."
Eustace coach Mike Green, however, wasn't as satisfied.
"Defensively, we could have asked for a better start," Green said. "We pride ourself on being a team that's strong in the back, that has excellent goalkeeping. For the first game, I'll take it because of the margin of score -- but I would like to see us give up less."
Green was probably happier with the last two periods. After Maluasi scored to bring Middletown within two goals of the Crusaders' lead three minutes into the second, the home team cracked down on defense and scored four more goals to run away with the game.
With 17 seconds left in regulation, Hancock won the battle with Grunther and Dwier for a hat trick. Hancock took a feed from Dwier and sent in a nifty backhand shot while breaking hard to the net to score his third of the game.
"On the bench we were all talking about trying to get it," admitted Dwier. "I had one hit off the post. But it's all right -- we got the win."
Reach Ryan Lawrence at (856) 486-2424 or email@example.com