Back to Basics: CBA finds its game to pull away from Pope John
WALL TOWNSHIP – The first period of Wednesday afternoon’s game at Jersey Shore Arena was not what you would expect from the No. 1 team in New Jersey and certainly not what Christian Brothers Academy expects from itself.
Sluggish, sloppy, out of synch; all of those could be used to describe CBA’s opening 15 minutes. For head coach Andy Gojdycz, it boiled down to one major issue.
Shoot. The. Puck.
“We thought we did not shoot the puck at all, (instead) trying to make the pretty play to get in the high slot but you have to keep it simple,” Gojdycz said. “Sometimes that gets lost on us that keeping the game as simple as possible wins games.”
The message was received loud and clear.
After recording just six shots in the first period, CBA found its game over the final two periods, fired a total of 32 shots on goal in the next 30 minutes and broke through in the third period to skate past Pope John, 5-1, in a Gordon Conference matchup. A goal by senior defenseman Colin Grable in the second period stood as the game-winner and senior Pete Vallebuona, Grable and sophomore Michael Gravina added goals during a dominant third period to push the Colts’ record to 5-0-1.
“We want to start with better urgency and that comes with playing a hardcore style,” Grable said. “Sometimes we get distracted and try to play fancy and we need to reiterate that we have to play our style. We outwork teams and that’s part of our pride here.”
Pope John was playing in its first game of the season but the Lions didn’t look rusty early on. They clogged the neutral zone, were active with their sticks and were consistent with their forecheck. CBA was off its game, too, and the issues were exasperated by playing more east-west than north-south and not getting enough pucks to the net. Still, it was the Colts who struck first.
Just under four minutes into the opening period, Grable sent a blueline-to-blueline pass to junior forward Zach Wagnon down the spectator side of the rink and Wagnon dangled around a Pope John defenseman, cut across the crease and beat Lions goalie Tyler Paluzzi to give CBA a 1-0 lead at 3:58.
Pope John would find the equalizer later in the first, however, when CBA had trouble getting out of its own end. Emporio Iencio poked the puck loose along the boards, skated unimpeded toward the net and roofed a slick backhander under the crossbar to tie the score 1-1 at 10:06.
The Zamboni came out after the first period to resurface the ice instead of its usual appearance during the second and third periods, and the longer break was an opportunity for the Colts to correct their errors. The focus on getting back to a straightforward style was evident right away and CBA pumped a few shots on goal in the early minutes. It took until midway through the second period for CBA to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but that time came at 8:19 when Grable moved from the left point to the crease and deflected a pass by sophomore defenseman Patrick Reilly.
“Zach Wagnon made a nice play going low to high and I remember walking (the blue line), a Pope John player stepped to block the shot, and I saw Pat, who read it well to go down,” Grable said. “When I hit it to him I saw an opening back door and he made a great pass across and it just deflected off my body.”
CBA was firmly in control in the second period but only had a one-goal cushion despite a 12-4 shots advantage. But the snowball was rolling downhill and in the third period, Pope John could do little to get out of its way.
A relentless forecheck yielded CBA’s third goal and opened the floodgates. Junior forward Aidan Guinnessey blocked a clearing attempt and the puck careened to Vallebuona in front of the net. His shot was briefly stopped by Paluzzi but trickled across the goal line for a 3-1 Colts lead at 3:56 of the third.
Before this reporter could send a video of the goal out to the Twitter audience, the lead grew to 4-1 when Grable ripped a wrist shot over Paluzzi’s shoulder just 34 seconds later.
CBA was now basically camped in the Pope John zone and applying unyielding pressure. The final goal was certainly one for the highlight reel as freshman Christian Chouha threaded a cross-ice pass to Gravina, who re-directed it home for his first varsity goal.
“Gravina really deserved that one because he’s been one of our most consistent guys all year,” Grable said.
The Colts outshot Pope John 20-5 in the final period and finished with a 38-16 advantage.
“Going into that third period we finally starting putting more on net and it showed, offensively,” Gojdycz said. “When we get going like that, we’re pretty good.”
Junior Joseph Cartigiano got the start in goal and although he wasn’t asked to do much, he did make a pair of key saves on odd-man rushes when the game was still close. He will be the guy between the pipes for the foreseeable future as starter John Donohoe, the reigning state Player of the Year, will be out indefinitely after being injured in a collision in Sunday’s game vs. Don Bosco Prep.
Cartigiano is more than capable of carrying the load and he is an example of CBA’s depth, as is the contributions from players in the freshman and sophomore classes like Chouha, Michael Schmelzer, Gravina, Reilly, Leighton Biesiadecki and more.
“Our well is deep and it’s like that for a reason,” Gojdycz said. “When we have contributions each year from our freshman and sophomore classes It’s huge and we expect that. Once you crack the top four lines as a forward, I don’t care what class you’re in, you’re expected to produce. And it’s the same in goal. Joey, he’s a very talented goaltender and we know what we have in him. When the need was to put Joey in no one batted an eye.”
CBA is right back on the ice Thursday afternoon with a Shore Conference North Division game at Middletown North. Then it’s back to JSA on Monday for a massive home tilt against Delbarton.
“Obviously we have Delby coming up but we have to take Middletown North as seriously as any other game because everyone can play,” Grable said. “We just want to keep building.”
My three stars
1. Colin Grable
2. Zach Wagnon
3. Patrick Reilly
No. 1 CBA 5, Pope John 1
|Pope John (0-1)||1||0||0||1|
CBA – Zach Wagnon (Colin Grable, Patrick Reilly), 3:58
PJ – Emporio Iencio, 10:06
CBA – Colin Grable (Patrick Reilly, Zach Wagnon), 8:19
CBA – Pete Vallebuona (Aidan Guinnessey), 3:56
CBA – Colin Grable (Christian Chouha, Zach Wagnon), 4:30
CBA – Michael Gravina (Christian Chouha, Patrick Reilly), 7:39
SAVES – PJ: Tyler Paluzzi, 33; CBA: Joseph Cartigiano, 15
SHOTS: CBA, 38-16
PP – PJ: 0-0; CBA: 0-1.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.
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