Bishop Timon-St. Jude’s goal is like any team. It wants to be playing its best hockey come playoff time.
The Tigers have made huge strides in that direction under first-year pilot and Timon alumnus Matt English, who has coached current NHLers Brian Gionta and Lee Stempniak during his 20 years behind the bench at the travel and junior levels. The Tigers have won four of their last five games.
“It took the kids 10 or 12 games to learn the system that we run. Things are going good,” English said. “We’ve come back and beaten teams that have already beaten us already this year. We’re coming along.”
There have been some changes with the team moving Evan and Joey Shanley to defense with Gavin Ferrell and Hayden Sawynsky shuffling to forward. Pat Faliero and Ryan Miller are Timon’s top scorers.
Timon is among the Catholic school members of the Federation chasing defending state champion St. Joe’s.
The Marauders have championship-winning experience back in the fold, but recent history shows that once the Niagara Cup playoffs begin each private school has a chance at claiming the crown.
Two years ago Canisius stunned a favored St. Joe’s team that swept the Crusaders during the regular season in the Niagara Cup final. Canisius went on to win the state title.
Three years ago, a Timon crew led by scoring sensation Connor Fields came into the final as a slight favorite but lost to St. Joe’s, which wound up winning the state title. St. Francis, which is primarily the top developmental team for the school’s prep-league squad, won the Niagara Cup in 2012.
Canisius has been in pretty much all of its games even though it entered the week under .500 with a 5-6-2 mark.
"We've just made mistakes at inopportune times," Crusaders coach Sam Belsito said. "Our strength is our speed. When we stop moving our feet we become average quickly."
Forward Jacob Bennett is in his third season as the captain is a holdover from Canisius' state title-winning team from 2015.
Returning defenseman Mark Matthews skates well and makes good first passes to start the breakout out of the zone. Peter John Ciotta and Logan Gare are the Crusaders' top scorers.