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St. Joe's title sweeter in front of home fans

It was quite the scene on the HarborCenter ice Sunday after St. Joe’s repeated as state Catholic High School Athletic Association boys hockey champion.

Following a 5-2 win over St. Anthony’s of South Huntington, Marauders’ players and coaches welcomed friends and family to the playing surface where they celebrated and took photos for nearly 45 minutes after the game.

St. Joe’s, which has 13 seniors, ended the season without a loss in its final 22 games (21-0-1) and in a state Catholic finals rematch, the Marauders knocked off the same Friars powerhouse they defeated, 2-1, in overtime last season on Long Island.

“What a great feeling to do this in front of our family and friends,” said St. Joe’s coach Richard Crozier, whose team has now won five state Catholic titles in the last seven years. “My preference is for the ones at home. It was certainly nice to have everyone here to celebrate what’s been an incredible season.”

Senior Jeremy Ienco scored twice and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for St. Joe’s, which finished with four unanswered goals after trailing 2-1 in the second period. Ienco, a three-year varsity player, also scored the game-winner in last year’s state Catholic final. Crozier called him a “big-time player.”

“It’s a great feeling to be able to score in these big games,” Ienco said. “I don’t know what it is. It just happens for me. I feel very fortunate.”

Seniors Mark Gilbert and Luke Pierce and junior Spencer Frome added goals in the win. St. Anthony’s got goals from senior Greg Barnych and sophomore Andrew Mancini. Winning goalie Donovan Boshier (senior) stopped 16 shots.

Ienco said getting to share the title afterward with those close to him, including his peers, which made up a raucous student fan section for St. Joe’s, made the title that much more sweet. He had a hard time leaving the ice when it was all said and done.

“It’s a pretty special feeling to go out on top,” he said. “We won last year but it’s nothing compared to this: last game in this uniform and winning a state championship.”

In a three-goal flurry that covered one minute, 22 seconds midway through the second period, St. Joe’s answered a goal that had given St. Anthony’s a 2-1 lead. It started with a Gilbert rebound tally with 7:33 left, followed by Frome’s game-winner 44 seconds later. Kyle Clifford assisted on both goals. Michael Greco notched a helper on Gilbert’s goal and David Matthew assisted on Frome’s tally.

Ienco fired home a third-period power play goal from the left circle with 6:23 left in the game to stretch the St. Joe’s lead to 4-2. Alexander Zuchlewski and Jack Lalley notched the assists. Pierce put the game away with an empty-net goal with 52 seconds left in the game.

Crozier credited his team’s depth and ability to roll four forward lines as the difference, especially in the latter part of the game.

“All of these players are very talented and it says a lot about the sacrifices they make to play St. Joe’s hockey,” he said. “They accepted their role and not one person complained.”

Mancini finished a 2-on-1 break led by Ryan Mahlmeister to put the Friars up 2-1 with 8:11 left in the second period. John Forlenza started the break, lofting the puck up the ice onto Mahlmeister’s stick.

St. Joe’s opened the scoring six minutes into the game on an Ienco goal, assisted by Trevor Conschafter and Ethan Louisos. St. Anthony’s answered with Barnych’s power-play goal with 6:48 left in the opening period.

The Marauders outshot St. Anthony’s, 27-18, in a very physical game and what’s become a growing rivalry.

“St. Anthony’s is good and they have a lot of really talented offensive players,” Crozier said. “They just didn’t have the lines after their second line and we did, so I think eventually we tired them out.”

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