Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — This season the St. Joe’s boys hockey team couldn’t find a way to beat Bishop-Timon St. Jude during the regular season and fell twice allowing a season sweep.
But in front of an excited crowd at the First Niagara Center on Monday afternoon, the No. 3-seeded Marauders found their redemption and were successful as they defeated the No. 1 seeded Tigers, 4-2, en route to their third championship in four years.
“It feels great,” said St. Joe’s coach Rich Crozier. “This one’s a little bit different from last year. Obviously, we’re playing some great hockey at the right time … There was certainly a lot of pressure to win last year. This year we felt we needed to peak at the right time. Thankfully for our sake that happened.
It took one period for the Marauders’ offense to get going but once it did the opportunities to create mismatches were unlimited.
With 9:06 left in the second period, senior forward Nicholas Zenger put back a rebound to put St. Joe’s up 1-0.
Moments later, junior forward Connor McKenna received a pass from senior James Basset in the slot on a 2-on-1 break which led to St. Joe's second goal, putting the Marauders ahead 2-1.
Zenger later added another goal in the third to increase the lead to 3-1. He finished the game with two goals and an assist.
Defensively, the Marauders were aggressive in getting to shooters and bating the Tigers into turning over the puck, despite being outshot 31-22.
“(Timon) is a great team,” Crozier said. “We knew we had to change some things up. I’m just proud of these boys. They bought into it. As a couple coaches eluded to, we’ve been fortunate enough over the last couple of years we’ve been able to put a system together and just flew out muscles.”
Senior goaltender Peter Chopra was solid in net for St. Joe’s on the evening as he made 29 saves on 31 shots and earned the games' MVP award.
It was Chopra's first postseason start in Western New York Federation play. He spoke about the team's play and its game plan against Timon.
“We did a good job keeping everyone to the outside the whole game,” Chopra said. “We clogged the middle. Just tried to keep all the shots from the outside. They really didn’t have many good opportunities. It was a pretty easy night for me.”
Also adding a goal for St. Joe’s was junior forward Dominic Perna, who sealed the victory with an empty net goal quieting any comeback by Timon.
The Marauders will now travel to the Nassau Collesium to take on St. Anthony’s on Saturday.
“You dream about this stuff. Playing in an NHL rink,” Perna said. “You still have the opportunity to compete for another State Championship. It’s just awesome.”
Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.Follow @tonanewssports and contributor @JoeKonzeJr on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.