Balanced Barrage: No. 1 CBA steamrolls St. Peter’s Prep in season opener
WALL – Christian Brothers Academy ended last season as the No. 1 team in the land and begins this season with that same distinction. There is an appropriate amount of pressure and expectation that comes with being the hunted, but nothing a program that has won eight NJSIAA state titles and nine Gordon Cup crowns hasn’t dealt with before.
Friday afternoon marked the start of their latest journey, one that cannot end with a state title since there will be no NJSIAA Tournament in this shortened-due-to-COVID season but will still include the prestigious Gordon Cup. Odds are strong that the Gordon Cup champion will finish as the No. 1 team in New Jersey, so under that assumption, it’s fair to figure CBA’s goal in 2021 is to go wire-to-wire atop the state.
There were some wrinkles to iron out and rust to shake off, but the Colts’ title defense began in dominant fashion and showcased all that makes them a juggernaut. Junior forward Zach Wagnon led a balanced offense with one goal and three assists and CBA had eight different goal-scorers to author an 8-1 victory over St. Peter’s Prep in a Gordon Conference matchup at Jersey Shore Arena.
The Colts had seven players record multiple points with Wagnon totaling four and Raymond Cartigiano, Leighton Biesiadecki and Christian Chouha each registering one goal and two assists. Robert Setteducati added a goal and an assist and Colin Grable and Patrick Reilly each assisted on a pair of goals. Chouha and fellow freshman Michael Schmelzer each scored their first varsity goal and Ryan Howard and Antonio Donohue also scored once each. CBA outshot St. Peter’s, 49-10, including 23-7 in the tone-setting first period.
“We just wanted to start our season and get back into the hockey flow,” said second-year CBA head coach Andy Gojdycz, who guided the Colts to the Gordon Cup title and the NJSIAA Non-Public state championship in his first season at the helm. “These guys were itching to get back. We’re excited to start the year, having our freshman coming in and getting mingled with the returners, and the returners getting back to their good ways and good habits.”
Gojdycz’s coaching approach is one of meticulous attention to detail so sprinkling glitter over a season-opening victory, even an 8-1 triumph, was not going to happen. There was plenty to like, of course. The Colts were hard on the puck and suffocated St. Peter’s Prep in all three zones. Their work below the offensive goal line netted a few goals. Their finishers finished, a pair of freshman scored in their debuts and their special teams produced two power-play goals in five chances and killed off all six penalties. But there were still a few teachable moments.
“I wouldn’t call it a complete game in the sense that I’m a stickler for the little things and the guys know that,” Gojdycz said. “One bad shift can be the game and we had a couple small bad shifts. We’re trying to be as perfect as we can while understanding mistakes happen, but just keeping on the tone of you have to do the little things right. That’s what we were looking for tonight and moving forward. It’s shift by shift, period by period, game by game.”
“It’s always important to keep it simple: get it deep, forecheck hard, get pucks on net and good things will happen,” Wagnon said. “The puck luck will go our way if we keep working hard.”
There was nothing lucky about CBA’s opening period of the season but it was certainly a product of that aforementioned hard work. At 5:36 of the first, Greg Findeisen threaded a pass to a streaking Justin Lidondici between the circles. His shot was stopped by Marauders goalie Aaron Rodriguez but Howard was there to pounce on the rebound and give the Colts a 1-0 lead.
Less than one minute later while on the man advantage, Cartigiano one-timed a centering pass from Setteducati that was stopped by Rodriguez, but Biesiadecki was parked at the goalmouth where he corralled the rebound and tucked it inside the left post for a 2-0 advantage.
Wagnon made it 3-0 at 8:56 when he chipped a loose puck to himself just inside the blue line, played it to Chouha, got it back and put in the rebound of his own shot.
A power-play early in the second period led to CBA’s fourth goal. Some great puck movement eventually ended with Reilly feeding Cartigiano in the slot and the junior forward went down to one-knee to one-time the shot past Rodriguez.
The rout was officially on at the 9:34 mark when Schmelzer found himself with time and space in the offensive zone and snapped a shot over the glove hand of Rodriguez to stretch the Colts’ advantage to 5-0 and give him his first varsity goal. Chouha joined him with his first varsity goal at 11:52 off assists from Biesiadecki and Wagnon.
Donohue scored early in the third period to make it 7-0, taking advantage of a quirky bounce off the corner boards, before St. Peter’s broke the shutout when Chris Benkovitz converted off a pass from Michael Benkovitz. CBA answered immediately, however, when Setteducati found the back of the net off a primary assist from Wagnon.
Junior goalie John Donohoe, the reigning New Jersey Player of the Year, wasn’t tested much and stopped nine of 10 shots to earn the win.
The Colts were all smiles in their makeshift locker room, certainly for their emphatic victory but equally so because the season had finally begun. Nothing is guaranteed in 2021 as evident by multiple teams around the state, including Rumson-Fair Haven, Wall and Lacey/Barnegat, already having to shut down for two weeks because of COVID-19 exposure.
“It’s literally day by day,” Gojdycz said. “We’re just hoping to continue and keep moving forward playing games. To have other teams around the state shut down, we don’t want to be in that boat. We feel for them because we wanted everyone playing hockey.”
“The season was already delayed so just to get back on the ice felt good,” Wagnon said.
And on the ice, the goals are the same as every season.
“We’re all super pumped to be back and having a chance to go back-to-back in the Gordon would be great,” Wagnon said. “We’re all super motivated and we’re ready to go.”
No. 1 CBA 8, St. Peter’s Prep 1
|St. Peter’s Prep (0-1)||0||0||1||1|
|Christian Brothers (1-0)||3||3||2||8|
CBA – Howard (Lidondici, Findeisen), 5:36
CBA – Biesiadecki (Cartigiano, Setteducati), 6:30 (PP)
CBA – Wagnon (Biesiadecki, Chouha), 8:56
CBA – Cartigiano (Reilly, Wagnon), 4:45 (PP)
CBA – Schmelzer (Reilly, Cartigiano), 9:34
CBA – Chouha (Biesiadecki, Wagnon), 11:52
CBA – Donohoe (Vallebuona, A. Guinnessey), 3:02
SPP – C. Benkovitz (M. Benkovitz), 8:01
CBA – Setteducati (Wagnon, Chouha), 8:11
SAVES – CBA: Donohoe, 9; SPP: Rodriguez, 39
SHOTS: CBA, 47-10
POWER PLAY: CBA, 2-6; SPP, 0-6.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. 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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