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St. Joe's blanks Canisius to win fifth hockey title in seven years

Victory in any St. Joe's-Canisius rivalry game is sweet for the athletic participants.

It's even sweeter when the triumph comes in a championship game.

Add another spoonful of sugar on top of sweeter, and that perhaps best describes what it feels like to be Jack Lalley.

The St. Joe's senior defenseman now knows what it's like to score the championship-clinching goal in a game against the Crusaders twice in a career.

For the third time in as many seasons, the teams met for the Niagara Cup hockey championship at the home of the Buffalo Sabres. The Marauders got to enjoy the deja vu experience as for the second straight year, they topped Canisius, 4-0, at KeyBank Center.

The Niagara Cup championship is St. Joe's fifth in seven years and – including Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation playoff titles is the program's 12th since the 1990-91 season. The Marauders have won four titles the last five seasons with Canisius the only team to interrupt that run.

They look to repeat as state Catholic champions against a familiar adversary. They face St. Anthony's of Long Island at 3 p.m. Sunday at HarborCenter in a rematch of last year's final.

There was no stopping St. Joe's or Lalley on Monday afternoon.

"I've said it before, some people think that you just throw on a Joe's jersey and you win," triumphant coach Rich Crozier said. "It doesn't work that way. We have to keep working hard to maintain that status. ... It's a great feeling (winning another title)."

Lalley's two power-play goals in the first period put the Marauders in the driver's seat for good before an estimated 2,000. He's shown a knack for scoring big goals agianst Canisius.

Last spring, he scored the championship-clinching goal in overtime in a lacrosse win over the Crusaders -- ending their title reign in the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association.

Monday's sudden strike may not have come in overtime but was huge nonetheless.

"Any championship with St. Joe's is great," said Lalley, who grew up learning about the rivalry from his father -- a St. Joe's alumnus. "It's great representing your school" and winning.

"This guy, he's a Canisius killer," Crozier said. "He was great."

St. Joe's finished second during the regular season among Fed large school teams in goals. However, its power play failed to score in its last meeting against Canisius, a 1-1, tie that's part of the Marauders' now 21-game unbeaten streak (20-0-1).

The power play allowed St. Joe's to seize control of this meeting with game MVP Lalley scoring both man-advantage goals roughly 3 minutes apart with teammates providing screens on his shots. The first was a slapper from the point that found the back of the net with 6 minutes, 9 seconds left in the period. On his next goal, he fired a wrister through traffic that found the top corner.

Twenty-eight seconds into the second period, Luke Pierce in the slot redirected a pass from the left boards by Seth Glanowski to make it 3-0. Glanowski's wrister through a screen found the back of the net late in the third to give the Rowdies, St. Joe's student fans, even more reason to make some noise at the home of the Buffalo Sabres.

Canisius goalie Ryan O'Donnell, who made 28 saves in the tie earlier this month against St. Joe's, had no chance on any of the goals Monday during a 24-save showing.

"They cashed in on their opportunities and we didn't," Canisius coach Sam Belsito said. "I'm proud of tmy guys. They worked hard."

Goalie Donovan Boshier finished with 23 saves for the shutout.

"We were really focused all week," Crozier said. "Our practice yesterday was one of the best of the year. Coming into it I felt confident about our mindset.

 

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