By MICHAEL RADANO
The Bishop Eustace ice hockey team does things in a very specific manner.
The fact is, at times, the Crusaders can be downright boring.
"Well, if you have a goalie like Colin, it's a natural choice," Eustace coach Mike Green said. "We don't plan on high-scoring games. It's just not what we plan to do."
Certainly not with Colin Saltiel in net.
Bishop Eustace, on the strength of 36 saves by Saltiel, beat arch-nemesis St. Augustine 4-2 at the SkateZone Friday. It was the second time this year Eustace (9-0-2 in its last 11 games) handed the Hermits a loss, but St. Augustine remains the New Jersey Ice Hockey League Southern Conference Red Division champion for the regular season. The Conference playoffs begin next week, with Eustace the defending back-to-back champions.
"I don't think it's an issue," St. Augustine coach Ralph Triboletti said. "Look at the board. We outshot them 38-22. We had some chances. The key is we just have to put the puck in the net."
That's something Eustace just did a better job of Friday.
With a defensive mindset -- and Saltiel -- Eustace actually opened the game on the attack. Two quick goals by Tyler Hancock and Chris Gentile gave the Crusaders a 2-0 first-period lead.
"We have to have better first periods," Triboletti said. "We've had really strong third periods all year."
Given two goals, Saltiel casually slid back deep into his net and waited for the game to come to him. For the most part, Saltiel faced shots that came down lanes and right to him which he swatted away or casually caught.
"Yeah, I saw the puck well tonight," Saltiel said. "That's a product of my defense. It's never old. It gets better every time (we beat St. Augustine) and this may have been the best win of all of them.
"I know they're having mental problems when it comes to scoring on us. You can see it, and I think our two goals were definitely unexpected."
St. Augustine did get one back on the first of Zack Stern's two goals with 13:11 left in the second period. The goal put the Hermits on the attack, but Saltiel stopped a pair of breakways and big-time chances to keep the game even.
Saltiel felt that St. Augustine got more frustrated as the period went on, and pointed to that as a reason for a pair of late second-period penalties to Anthony Casale and Jeff Buvinow that set up a 5-on-3 situation.
Triboletti climbed off the bench and on the boards to discuss -- or disgust -- the second penalty, but to no avail. Given the chance, Al Wooley hit a blast from the point to make the score 3-1 and Hancock, on a nifty move through the slot, went high with a pass from Taylor Morgan for a 4-1 lead.
"He came right back to me and I just waited for (Hermits goalie Kevin Healey) to step down and I went high," Hancock said. "I was concerned they were going to come back, but we're a good team as well. They're a rival and you never know."
Well, Hancock, Eustace and especially St. Augustine know one thing now, Saltiel is always ready.
"Colin's Colin," Hancock said with a broad smile. "Can't say anything more than that."
Reach Michael Radano at (856) 486-2424 or email@example.com