By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — After two periods of the Section VI Federation Catholic School final, St. Joe's held a 2-0 advantage over Bishop Timon and seemed to be in complete control.
But the Tigers had other ideas.
Timon netted a pair of goals early in the period to tie the game and also set up a dream scenario for any one of the 38 skaters in either a white or green jersey to notch a potential game winner.
Zach Klapp seized the moment.
The St. Joe's captain and Tonawanda native stole the puck on a Timon pass from behind his own net, made a pair of dekes and buried the puck home to give the Marauders a 3-2 lead which proved to be enough for the victory.
In the locker room after the game, St. Joe's coach Rick Crozier gave Klapp the "game puck" and told him, "you won us a championship with that goal."
"It's every kid's dream growing up," Klapp said about the game winner. "You're always playing in the driveway, last few minutes of the game and you go down and score. It's just a great feeling, especially to help my team to victory today."
Klapp has been one of Crozier's most trusted veterans all season, and the coach has constantly applauded his player for his hard work and team-first attitude.
Crozier said it was nice to see Klapp end up with the recognition he'd earned all season with his leadership and work ethic.
"Zach is one of those special players, he's been with me since he was 14 years old," Crozier said. "I think that's his 83rd victory at the Federation level. We've asked something tough of him this year. It's not easy to be the second line center, but he's put his personal aspirations to the side for the betterment of the team, and I'm so proud of him for that. It is poetic justice that he gets the recognition tonight with the big goal to win a championship."
The Marauders took an early 1-0 lead at the 3:20 mark of the first period when senior Eric Paradowski rifled home a pass from linemate Dominic Perna, who blistered a pass through the crease. Paradowski had a wide open net and beat the sliding Timon goalie Bob Milewski.
St. Joe's lit the lamp again in the second when Dennis Gilbert Jr. stole the puck at his own blue line and charged into the Timon zone, beat one defender to the outside and snuck a drag shot under the left pad of Milewski.
Crozier said he thought his team had a lot of chances but that Timon's net minder kept the Tigers in the game.
"One of the things we thought would be an advantage was if we put some pressure on their D," he said. "Timon has a real strong team, but we felt like our forecheck would be an advantage. We had a lot of chances. Hats off goes to their goalie. Breakaway glove save, I stayed strong but I said, 'Wow, we can't put these guys away.'"
After the second Timon goal, Klapp said Crozier told the team it had to keep going hard and battling on both ends of the ice. Klapp felt as though the team responded and finished strong to avoid another let down, like last season against Canisius in the semi finals.
"Last year was a heart breaker, but it only motivated me and my teammates to work even harder," he said. "Every day in practice we would go out there and work even harder. It paid off in the end."
Crozier led a raucous rendition of "Oh When the Saints Go Marching In" following the game in his speech to the team. He told the boys how proud he was of each one of them and how much he appreciated their effort. He said that effort made them champions.
"They score that second goal and I'm sure there were some jitters, but like I just said in the locker room, guys remained positive and we stuck together," he said. "That's the difference, when it comes to being a championship team those little things make the difference. "Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.