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Varsity - 2008 Season
Posted Friday, February 08, 2008 by lOHUD.COM

Iona Prep, Stepinac advance
By Harold Gutmann • The Journal News • February 8, 2008

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YONKERS - There's a common saying in sports that it's hard to beat a team three times in a single season. Iona Prep is faced with a much tougher proposition - having to beat a team five times. After winning all three games against two-time defending champion Fordham Prep in the regular season, the Gaels were matched up with the Rams again in the best-of-three CHSHL semifinals.

Fordham Prep, the No. 4 seed, outplayed Iona Prep for the majority of Game 1, but the top-seeded Gaels scored twice in the final five minutes to win 2-1 last night at Murray Memorial Skating Center. No. 2 Stepinac followed with a 3-2 win against No. 3 Monsignor Farrell in Game 1 of the other semifinal.

Cody King's unassisted goal, which came on the Gaels' lone power play, tied the score with 4:56 left, and Harrison resident Gerard Traficante's rebound with 2:12 remaining proved to be the winner.

"I knew they were going to come out and fight," said King, a White Plains resident. "Everyone wants to beat the No. 1 team, and they came out with a lot of heart. They beat us for two periods hands down, so I'm really happy we were able to come back and win."

Michael Spillane converted a centering pass from Brendan Masullo with 3:09 left in the second period to give the Rams the lead, but despite controlling play, Fordham (11-11-1) couldn't beat Gaels goalie Stefan DiMario (19 saves) again.

Finally, King picked up a Rams clear, skating the length of the ice and beat freshman goalie R.J. Fusco (18 saves) short-side.

"I heard the guys on the bench telling me to take it, so I just turned it up and took it wide," King said. "I just wanted to throw it on net and it hit his shoulder and rolled in."

Fordham Prep had been outscored 15-4 against Iona Prep this season and had given up nine goals in each of its last three games, but the Rams were the more energetic team early. "We won 90 percent of the 1-on-1 battles," Fordham Prep coach Alan Pilla said. "I couldn't be any happier with the way they played, I'm just sorry they didn't get a result. They deserve better. But good for Iona, they finished their chances. For 2 1/2 periods we had many chances to make it 2-, 3-nothing, and we didn't do it."

Fordham Prep and Iona Prep have combined to claim four of the last five CHSHL titles - the Gaels won in '03 and '04 - while Stepinac has never won. But the Crusaders (15-6-1) entered the postseason as the hottest team, having won six in a row. Stepinac took a 2-0 lead after one period on a power-play slap shot by Nikolas Odoardi and a nice pass from A.J. Datino to Anthony Muccio.

Farrell spent the first five minutes of the third period on the power play and finally scored to make it 2-1, but Dan Coughlin converted Stepinac's only shot of the period with 2:28 left to seal the win. "Everyone underestimated us this year, but everyone on the team knew we were a good team," said Coughlin, a Tuckahoe resident. "We're not a flashy team but we work hard."

Joe Reagan of Yonkers made 33 saves in the win.

All four teams are back in action tonight - Stepinac-Farrell at 8:15 at Abe Stark Arena in Coney Island and Iona Prep-Fordham Prep at 10 at Hutchinson Ice Arena in Mount Vernon.

Reach Harold Gutmann at hgutmann@lohud.com. Read the hockey blog at highschoolsticking.lohudblogs.com.

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