By Rick Woelfel
BRISTOL— On the surface, there wasn’t a lot at stake when LaSalle and Holy Ghost Prep took the ice at Grundy Arena Monday afternoon. The Explorers had already clinched the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference’s regular-season title.
But no meeting on the ice between the two longtime rivals can ever be classified as routine. The intensity level was as high as ever over the course of LaSalle’s 6-3 win.
“It’s a great rivalry game,” said LaSalle coach Wally Meuhlbronner. “It has been for years.”
Special teams played a significant role in this occasion, particularly in the early going. Referee Laura White tolerated no nonsense and called six penalties in the first period. Three of them led to power-play goals.
Colin Costello got things started when he scored for the Firebirds (7-12, 1-8 in the APAC with three losses in overtime or a shootout) off a left-wing faceoff. Michael Casey tied the game for LaSalle (18-6, 9-0 with one win in overtime) at 10:05 but Richard Spore put Holy Ghost Prep back in front at 11:46 when he beat Explorer netminder Aidan McCabe off a nifty feed from Alex D’Angelo.
Fabrizzio Mazzarelli tied the game for a second time when he scored for LaSalle on yet another power-play situation 3:01 into the second period.
Some three minutes later McCabe denied the Firebirds’ Byron Hartley on a two-on-none breakaway and momentum began to shift in LaSalle’s direction, David Brunner scored on a breakaway of his own off a turnover at 11:54 to give his team the lead.
The Firebirds battled through a stretch that found then playing two men short for 89 seconds and it was still a one-goal game after 32 minutes.
But Casey (on a power play) and Bryan Evans scored to make it a 5-2 game 3:57 into the third period to put the Explorers firmly in command. The Firebirds’ Evan Mudrick and LaSalle’s Daniel Sambuco traded goals to complete the scoring.
The temperature of the game cooled off a bit after the frenzied start; there were six penalties called over the last two periods.
“We were a little frustrated in the beginning,” said LaSalle captain Zach Baker, a senior defenseman. “Coach had to calm us down. Everyone was contained in the locker room in between (after the second period). In the first we were a little rattled, off our game, but ever since the end of the first we kind of stuck to our normal game plan and got things going.”
If you’re counting, five of the nine goals in the game came on power plays, including three of LaSalle’s six.
“I thought we did some good things early on,” said Holy Ghost Prep coach Gump Whiteside, “but you’ve just got to be disciplined and stay out of the box. We told them what was going to happen but unfortunately, we just couldn’t get it done today.”
LaSalle (18-8, 9-0, 1 in OT)
HGP 7-12, 1-8, 3 losses in OT)
LaSalle 1 2 3—6
Holy Ghost Prep 2 0 1—3
First-period goals: Colin Costello (HGP) from Alex D’Angelo and Andrew Serafin, 7:38 (pp); Michael Casey (L) from Daniel Sambuco and Sam Lipkin, 10:05 (pp); Richard Spohr (HGP) from D’Angelo, 11:46 (pp).
Second-period goals: Fabrizzio Mazzarelli (L) from Lipkin and Jan Olenginski, 11:54; David Brunner (L) unassisted, 11:54.
Third-period goals: Casey (L) from Lipkin, 2:10 (pp); Bryan Evans (L) from Sean Keaveny, 3:57; Evan Mudrick (HGP) unassisted, 6:47; Daniel Sambuco (L) from Lipkin, 11:49.
Shots: LaSalle 28, Holy Ghost Prep 27; Saves: Aidan McCabe (L) 24, Sean Joyce (HGP) 22