Kellen Pulera knew that this would be his last meaningful hockey game. So he wanted to make it count.
Pulera scored twice and earned MVP honors as St. Joe’s stormed its way to its 12th CHSAA title with a no-doubt, 9-1 win over Fordham Prep (Bronx) at Harborcenter on Saturday afternoon.
"This is unbelievable," Pulera said. "It’s awesome for the program, for myself. Just going out on a win because I will not be playing hockey after this anymore. It’s awesome to be on top, but I have to thank my team for everything. My team brought me to this. My goals were only rebounds."
Pulera netted both of his goals in a wild four-minute span during the first period that also saw Kyle Schneider and Matt Orlowski (two goals) score. Joe’s (23-2-2) built a 4-0 lead during an offensive onslaught that saw them outshoot the Rams 17-2 in the first period.
Pulera, who will be playing Division I lacrosse for Marist College, said knowing that this was his swan song in hockey he was going to give it everything he had for his school and go out in a memorable way.
"I’ve been thinking that all week," Pulera said. "Ever since that (Niagara Cup championship) game on Monday."
Marauders head coach Rich Crozier said that Pulera is a high-character, team-first kid who did more for the team than he could describe.
"Here’s a kid, him and (Sam) Latorre, they’re going on scholarships to play lacrosse next year. They didn’t have to play hockey. They’re all set for college," Crozier said. "But you know what? They wanted to do something for their school. They gave us a gift. Sam and Kellen, that entire line with Niko Pavicich, certainly they came through. MVP performance for Kellen, I’m so happy."
The first step in the dismantling of the visiting Rams was St. Joe’s setting the tone with clean, hard bodychecks and physical play that put the Rams on their heels.
"We had no idea what to expect coming out here. We had no film on them at all," Pulera said. "We just knew we had to play our game and if we play our game good things will come of it."
Crozier said from the opening whistle his team followed the game plan and simply never let up as they swarmed Fordham Prep goalie Matteo Vitale all day.
"Do you know how fortunate I am?" Crozier said. "When you walk into a locker room and you say to your boys ‘hey this is the way we want to play.’ We said we want to be physical, we want to get pucks to the net, and we don’t want to give them any room to attack us. I thought out defense was fantastic again today. Super aggressive. They really couldn’t get a lot going."
The Marauders extended their lead to 7-0 in the second period on goals by Pavicich, Matt Barrali (two goals) and Will Redding.
Orlowski and Barrali both collected their second goals of the day in the third period.
Nicholas Zerafa scored the Rams’ lone goal.
Not taking anything for granted or assuming a win, the Marauders played as if it was a one goal game until the end.
"We were a very hungry group this year," senior captain Jack Gilbert said. "All of our seniors and all of our underclassmen we were all looking to get it done this year. We were looking to go out on top and that’s what we did."
Joseph Fronczak played two periods of shutout hockey, then gave way to Trevor Galante in the third period.