Downey’s Clutch Saves Help No. 2 CBA Roll Past No. 3 Freehold Township
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – After a first half that did not go as expected for Christian Brothers Academy, the Colts completely turned the game around in the third quarter thanks to the play of Chris Downey and Thomas Gray.
Downey was tremendous in goal in the second half with eight of his 11 saves, including a fantastic three-save sequence that led to a CBA goal, while Gray, a junior defenseman, stepped into the face-off circle to provide CBA with valuable possessions. The Colts, No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, turned a tie game at the half into a comfortable victory by scoring the final seven goals of the game to defeat No. 3 Freehold Township, 10-3, in a Shore Conference Class A North game on Saturday at Michael J. Tighe Park.
Senior attackman Michael Carroll, senior midfielder Luke Valentino and freshman midfielder Kyle Aldridge each scored twice while junior attackman Connor Macrae, senior attackman Robbie Hermansen and defensive midfielders Luke Grover and Thomas Convery each scored once. Hermansen also had a pair of assists. Entering the second half tied at three, CBA scored six times in the third quarter to break the game open and improve to 8-0.
“I think we were not playing loose at all in the first two quarters,” Downey said. “We couldn’t get anything going and they were winning all the face-offs, so once we started winning the face-offs and getting momentum that’s when we started making big plays.”
“We definitely got a little rattled in the first half because we expected to come out here and do what we usually do,” Carroll said. “Everyone started getting flustered. I said to the guys to calm down, that we play our best when we’re having fun so clear your head and just relax and have fun out there.”
Playing without regular face-off specialist Nick Robertson had CBA scrambling to find an answer on draws. Freehold Township’s Ryan O’Donoghue went 5-for-8 on draws in the first half and helped the Patriots (6-1, 3-1) stay with the Colts.
“I think what changed it for us was we put Tommy Gray on face-offs and he changed the tone of the game because we were able to get possessions,” said CBA head coach Dave Santos. “We felt if we had possession of the ball enough we were going to score, we just didn’t get that many possessions in the first half.”
Senior attackman Chris Novella scored twice and O’Donoghue scored his first career goal for Freehold Township, which suffered its first loss of the season.
“That third quarter they put it into a second gear, played fast and physical, picked up ground balls, rode and cleared and went to a level of speed we haven’t seen all year long,” said Freehold Township head coach Ryan Eichner. “They had a 6-to-7-minute span and that was the difference in the game.”
Coming out of the half CBA pulled ahead 6-3 on goals by Carroll, Macrae and Hermansen, but the biggest play of the game was still to come.
With four minutes remaining in the third quarter, Downey made three consecutive saves that kept Freehold Township from cutting into CBA’s lead and led to a fast-break goal for the Colts. Downey initially made a stick save on a shot by Novella and then a mad scramble for the rebound followed. Downey even left his cage to fight for the ground ball but had to race back into the crease after Freehold Township’s Brendan Doel corralled the loose ball. Downey stopped Doel’s shot as he was running back to the goal, then made an incredible save on the rebound as Nick Elimanco got off a quick shot on goal. Downey was able to get his stick up to disrupt the shot and send it over the cage.
“The one was a rebound and then I came up and threw my stick out there and got lucky,” Downey said.
“It was 6-3 at that point and that was huge,” Carroll said. “It was still a was a very close game and very intense. That was a huge momentum-changer. We were all freaking out. It was amazing.”
“His save in the third quarter, if they score there it’s a different game,” Santos said. “Instead Downey comes up big and we come down and score on the fast break, and that may have been the final nail in the coffin.”
CBA gained possession and moved quickly down the field for a goal by Valentino that made it 7-3 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. Convery then scored with 1:48 left and Carroll added his second goal of the quarter for a 9-3 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Valentino scored the only goal of the fourth quarter, his second of the game, to provide the final scoring margin and send the Colts to another big win.
“I think all of us are speechless at this point, we just keep getting these tests and we keep coming out on top,” Carroll said of the Colts, who are ranked No. 4 in the NJ.com state top 20. “For me, personally, I took this one to heart being from a couple miles away from here. This is the field I grew up on.”
“We’re still growing and getting better but I like where we are,” Santos said. “We’re playing confident offensively and defensively with great senior leadership and we seem to have some momentum.”
No. 2 Christian Brothers Academy 10, No. 3 Freehold Township 3
Christian Brothers (8-0, 4-0) 2 1 6 1 – 10
Freehold Township (6-1, 3-1) 2 1 0 0 – 3
GOALS – CBA: Michael Carroll 2, Luke Valentino 2, Kyle Aldridge 2, Robbie Hermansen, Connor Macrae, Luke Grover, Thomas Convery; FT: Chris Novella 2, Ryan O’Donoghue.
ASSISTS – CBA: Robbie Hermansen 2, Connor Macrae, Michael Carroll.
SAVES – CBA: Chris Downey 11; FT: Aidan Purcell 7.
SHOTS: CBA, 26-22.
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