By Dave Ricci
Special to The News
After what they went through this season, it seems only fitting that extra time was needed.
Mason Benz scored in the fifth round of penalty kicks as St. Joe’s beat Canisius, 2-1, to capture the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association playoff championship at Canisius College’s Demske Sports Complex on Monday evening.
"I was just trying to stay calm. My legs were shaking," Mason Benz said. "I was just trying to stay focused. We’ve been practicing PKs in practice every day. So I just shot my shot and it went in."
The Marauders advanced to the NYSCHSAA tournament that will be played at St.John’s University in Queens this weekend. It will be their first trip to states in three years.
While Benz came up with the game-winning goal, it was goalkeeper Christopher Collins who saved the day, literally, by stopping four of the five shots he faced in the shootout.
"I told the boys if you need to take it to PK’s I’ll take care of my business," Collins said.
Playing to a pair of ties, 0-0 and 1-1, during the regular season there was a sense from the start that one goal would be enough to win it.
But unlike the regular season games where both teams seemed more concerned with imposing their will physically, this game was different. There was still the presence of strong physical play that can be expected in a rivalry game, but that physical play was also mixed with textbook example of what high tempo, quality soccer should be.
Both teams got quality first touches on the ball and pinpoint through passes to set up scoring chances.
Canisius opened the scoring midway through the first half when Derek Bartlo took a cross pass and put it in the open corner.
Thomas Dunia evened the score for the Marauders when he outran the defense and poked the ball home with 9:30 left in the first half.
"As nervewracking as it is, it was fun to watch," Canisius coach Chris Stuff said.
"It was fun to watch and I told my guys hold your heads high cause that’s one helluva season. We’ll miss going to New York, but it was one helluva season and we’ll be cheering for Joe’s because they’re representing our league."
The defending playoff champion Crusaders got a goal from Johnny Uba in Round Three. Thomas Stankowski answered for the Marauders with his turn in Round Three.
Collins stopped the next two shots opening the door for Benz.
"I asked him to get one (save). Get one and we should be able to take care of our business," St. Joe’s coach Mike Thoin said.
"Both goalies were great in the shootout, Chris came up huge making four saves. It’s crazy and they left it to Mason to bury one and Mason said thanks for coming."