Saltiel steals game from Hermits
Eustace goalie rejects 31 shots to lead team past unbeaten Prep

 
 

VINELAND -- It wasn't hard to make out what the St. Augustine Prep student section of the arena stands chanted after the first goal of Friday evening's Southern Conference Red Division ice hockey game.

"Yeah, I heard it," Bishop Eustace defenseman Taylor Morgan said with a broad smile. "All it did was fire us up more."

Granted, it's a chant that has been used to denigrate many times before. It's a chant of arrogance, of a foregone conclusion, but with 3:52 left in the first of three periods, is it really more than a mockery?

"We heard it," said Crusaders forward Tyler Hancock, who scored a pair of goals later in the game. "That's just a part of the atmosphere. It's an exciting way to play the game."

So when the Hermits faithful chanted "It's all over!" it certainly wasn't, especially since Eustace had more than enough fight to beat previously undefeated St. Augustine.

Bishop Eustace, with three consecutive goals that bridged the first into the second period and goaltending by Colin Saltiel that conjured up images of Jim Craig, beat St. Augustine, 3-2, in front of a passionate and overflowing Hermits home crowd.

After the second period, Eustace coach Mike Green mentioned that it was the type of crowd he hoped would some day present itself in South Jersey, and with two of the four South Jersey teams on the ice, it had the feel of a World Cup soccer game, right down to a shoving match over the Bishop Eustace flag.

For the Crusaders (7-4 overall, 4-2 Red Division), the approach seemed simple. Find just enough offense to shut down the high powered and state-ranked Hermits attack.

"We know we don't have their kind of firepower," said Saltiel, who officially turned away 31 shots. "We wanted to play a defensive game. We caught some lucky breaks. The puck was in the area and we found ways to clear it."

"Especally after we got up 3-1, we approached the game defensively," said Morgan, who gave the Crusaders a 2-1 lead with 2:12 left in the first period on a blast from just inside the blue line. "You don't think about attacking a team that averages six goals a game once you get a two-goal lead."

Or, for that matter, when you're down a man for much of the second and start of the third period.

After Hancock scored his second goal with 8:44 left in the second period, the Hermits (9-1, 8-1) were the beneficiaries of five power-play opportunities. Their lone goal in that time came at full strength. Zach Stern worked along the right-wing boards and slid the puck in front to Mike Innarato, who tapped it across the crease to Robert Baskow for an easy goal.

From that point on, Saltiel and his defense held on.

"You can't even be mad at him," St. Augustine coach Ralph Triboletti said of Saltiel. "He's a good kid. He's done this to us before and I'm sure he'll do it to someone else later."

Forgive Triboletti, who has seen Eustace come out on top far too often in this matchup. The Crusaders have now won 16 of the last 18 meetings between the two programs, with another game scheduled for Feb. 10 at Eustace.

One thing is for sure, at least according to Saltiel: the Hermits will be ready, and not because the visitors' fan base chanted "Start the busses" as the clock ran down.

"I'm sure they're ready now," Saltiel said. "If we asked them to play right now, I'm sure they'd be on the ice right now."

Unfortunately for St. Augustine, as Saltiel spoke, it really was over.