the big one

January 6, 2006 on 9:55 pm | In game recap | 1 Comment

I’ll spare you the details of my D.C. trip, but suffice it to say I made it back for the biggest game of every regular season Friday night at Mennen Arena. And neither I nor any of the 2,500+ other fans in attendance was cheated, as No. 1 Seton Hall Prep earned its first regular-season win over No. 2 Delbarton since 1998 with a well-deserved 3-2 decision. Ranked ahead of its rival chiefly due to a more experienced blue-line corps, the Pirates dominated the second period en route to the win.

No. 1 Seton Hall Prep defended its top ranking Friday with a 3-2 win over second-ranked rival Delbarton before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,500 at Mennen Arena. The win was Seton Hall Prep’s first over Delbarton since 2003 and first at Mennen since 2000 – both state tournament results. The Pirates had not beaten the Green Wave in the regular season since 1998.
All games are theoretically created equal, but not this one. The first-Friday-in-January matchup almost always outdraws the late-January game between the two rivals, and tonight might have been the largest regular-season crowd in state history. There were ice cuts at both intermissions, specially made T-shirts on both sides, fewer penalties than usual, and more parking congestion than you can imagine. Oh yeah, there was some hockey, too, and people standing just about everywhere to watch it.

The first period was a contrast in styles, with Seton Hall Prep rimming the puck high off the glass and Delbarton using stretch passes and lay-offs to build up speed through the neutral zone. After consecutive chances for Seton Hall Prep’s Mike Cacciotti and Delbarton’s Matt Schillings were denied around the 3:30 mark, the Green Wave opened the scoring at 5:07. First-line wing Dan Pressl whipped a pass into the slot from the right boards, and although captain Alex Smigelski did not connect perfectly with his one-timer, the shot fluttered into the top left corner. Smigelski almost doubled the lead on the same shift, but instead the action settled into an entertaining, back-and-forth pattern. Delbarton had the better of play in the middle of the period, springing Pressl for a breakaway with 3:05 left, but Pirate goalie Zach Truesdell reacted well to make a pad save on Pressl’s wrister. Holding the 1-0 lead, Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel sent his team into a 1-1-3 trap for the final minute of the period to ensure the lead.

The second period opened with a flurry of activity, as Pressl parked to the left of the crease and found himself staring at a wide-open net, but his shot was deflected away by a Seton Hall defenseman. The Pirates took over the period and the game from that point, and with people still filing into the arena, tied the game at the 5:35 mark. Cacciotti won a loose puck from Delbarton freshman defenseman Alex Velischek on the right boards, skated in parallel to the goal line and deked toward the front of the net before lifting a backhand over Green Wave goalie Jeff Leone. As seems so typical of the rivalry, Seton Hall Prep took advantage of the momentum with another goal less than a minute later. Chasing a loose puck at the top of the offensive zone with his back to goal, second-line forward John Passantino hooked his way around a Delbarton defender and banked the puck off the right boards to keep it in play. The bank caromed perfectly to Chris Preziosi in the high slot, and his one-timer appeared to catch Leone off guard.

Delbarton responded by using its stretch forwards even further up the ice, drawing Seton Hall Prep defensemen away from their offensive zone, but the Green Wave could not generate much offense in the period. Delbarton got the game’s first power play at the 7:48 mark but looked anemic in failing to challenge Truesdell. Seton Hall Prep then found itself unlucky not to take a 3-1 lead late in the period, when Mike Tahan’s shot from the left corner trickled behind Leone, and the referee ruled it had not crossed the line.

Trailing 2-1 into the third period, Shatel opted to start the period with the 1-1-3 trap, which has successfully produced many an odd-man rush for Delbarton this year. It slowed the game down a bit on this night, since hard-hitting forechecking was almost nonexistent, and Seton Hall Prep took a giant step toward the win at the 5:20 mark. Jim Mahoney wristed a seemingly innocuous shot from the left face-off circle that eluded Leone for a 3-1 lead. The goal forced Delbarton to step up the urgency of its forechecking, but Peter Herms’ troops were able to limit scoring opportunities.

With two minutes remaining and the crowd beginning to file toward the exits, Delbarton took advantage of its second power-play opportunity. Chris Volonnino circled in the lower left corner and fired a back-door pass to a wide-open Schillings to make the score 3-2. Delbarton was able to pull Leone with 1:04 remaining but could only manage point shots, and Velischek’s shot with 10 seconds remaining was blocked. Seton Hall Prep celebrated the rare victory over its chief rival, leaving Delbarton to prepare for Sunday’s game against Don Bosco Prep. While most people fought the traffic to leave, Herms moved on to coach a Rockets youth game on rink 3.

Seton Hall Prep 3, Delbarton 2

SHP 0 2 1 3
Del 1 0 1 2
SHP  8 14 11 33
Del  7 5 7 19

5:07 Del #9 Alex Smigelski (#17 Dan Pressl, #26 Chris Volonnino)
5:35 SHP #11 Mike Cacciotti (#17 Rem Vanderbeek, #21 Michael Tahan)
6:29 SHP #12 Chris Preziosi (#24 Nick Passantino)
5:20 SHP #15 Jim Mahoney (#11 Mike Cacciotti, #17 Rem Vanderbeek)
13:41 Del (pp) #8 Matt Schillings (#26 Chris Volonnino, #9 Alex Smigelski)

#30 Zach Truesdell (SHP) 19-17
#35 Jeff Leone (Del) 33-30

Power plays: SHP 0-1, Del 1-2

Attendance: 2,500+

Mennen Arena, not yet full

1 Comment

  1. Jon

    Next time you’re down in DC, give me a shout and I’ll take you to a HS game or two, courtesy of the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League.

    Comment by Joe — 13 January 2006 #

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