St. Joe’s boys lacrosse coach Peter Hudecki and Canisius counterpart Michael Albert were both kind of at a loss for words regarding how Trey Gehen kept getting open for quality scoring chances during Tuesday night’s Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association championship game.
Hudecki may have been tongue-tied on that subject, but he wasn’t regarding the contributions of Gehen and junior classmate Austin Holley. They did their part in helping their new team experience an all-too-familiar feeling at Canisius College’s Demske Sports Complex.
Gehen scored five goals, including three straight in span of 65 seconds, while Holley dominated the face-off circle to help St. Joe’s steamroll the rival Crusaders, 16-2, Wednesday night before an estimated crowd of 400.
Gehen’s goals provided the Marauders’ response after Canisius had pulled within a goal late in the first quarter. He kept having an opportunity to go on the attack with the rest of his teammates because Holley won 20 of his 23 faceoffs, as St. Joe’s looked the part of No. 1 team in Western New York in capturing its fourth straight Monsignor Martin playoff championship.
“They’re known for winning,” said Gehen, a transfer from Frontier. “Just to be on this team to give these seniors a fourth win is huge to me.”
Senior and team leading scorer Kellen Pulera added three goals and two assists as the Msgr. Martin Player of the Year forever etched his name in St. Joe’s lore. He was part of the first championship team, and experienced nothing but title-game wins during his career.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Pulera, who has 60 goals and 84 points. “Coming here freshman year I didn’t know what to expect. I have the best coaches in the game. I have the best teammates. I’d be nothing without them.”
Just how dominant were the Marauders (19-1), whose only loss this season was at nationally renown Culver Academy? They outshot Canisius 26-4. They outscored the Crusaders 8-0 in the second half. They had three players notch hat tricks with Evan Mulderig finishing with three goals and two assists. They dominated in the faceoff circle because of Holley, a transfer from Section V’s Hilton. They only slowed down slightly after increasing their lead to 12 early the fourth quarter which instilled the running time rule.
“Really it’s just all our guys following through with everything we wanted to do,” Hudecki said. “We knew once we had six on six offense, we have six really good players on offense. It’s hard to focus on one.”
At one point Canisius (10-9) had hope as it pulled within 2-1 on a power-play goal by Andrew Bray. Then Gehen crushed it, first scoring unassisted with 3:05 left in the first quarter. He then scored off an assist from Cole Campbell 34 seconds later. Gehen completed the hat trick off a feed from Ryan McGorry, which prompted Canisius to call a timeout.
It didn’t help as Campbell scored off a slick, underhanded backhand goal 44 seconds later.
“He does a really good job of getting open,” Hudecki said. “He’s really slippery around the net. With the other guys playing really well it takes a lot of pressure off him. ... He was able to get open and get it done.”
“It’s against one of our rivals,” said Gehen, who now is the fifth Marauder with at least 30 goals this season, of his big game. “We wanted to take it to them.”
This is the third time in four years St. Joe’s has beaten Canisius in the final. The Crusaders last won the crown in 2015.
St. Joe’s returns to action Tuesday against a still to be determined opponent in the New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship game. The contest will be played as usual in the New York City area.
The Marauders are 0-3 in that season finale but are hopeful they now have enough depth and the faceoff person to perhaps author a different ending.
“We want to go downstate and make something happen,” Hudecki said. “The guys that started this are going to be the guys that finish it. ... These guys really want it.”