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Crusaders tie up series 1 game a piece

Varsity - 2008 Season
Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008 by lohud.com

Stepinac evens CHSHL final series with OT win over Gaels
By Harold Gutmann
The Journal News • February 19, 2008

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MOUNT VERNON - Iona Prep was four minutes from winning its third CHSHL championship. Now Stepinac is one win away from its first.

Anthony Muccio tied the score with 3:52 left in regulation, and teammate Steven Yankowski scored 11:06 into overtime as the Crusaders defeated the Gaels 4-3 yesterday before a crowd of 652 at Hutchinson Ice Arena, tying the best-of-three series at 1-1. Game 3 is Thursday night at 7 at Murray Memorial Skating Center in Yonkers.

This win followed the same pattern as many others for the second-seeded Crusaders (17-8-1) - spectacular saves by goalie Joe Reagan (48 saves) and solid, smart play from the skaters. Seven Crusaders recorded exactly one point in the win - and the list didn't include A.J. Datino, who led the league in points.

Datino did create traffic in front on the winning goal, a wrist shot from just inside the blue line by Yankowski six seconds into Stepinac's eighth power play.

"After overtime, we knew it wasn't a game anymore," Datino said. "It was do or die, lose and go home. Once everyone realized that, everyone pumped themselves up and got the big win."

The Crusaders were on the power play eight times total, including two 5-on-3s, but until that point had allowed as many short-handed goals (one) as they had scored with the extra man.

"Try, try again," Stepinac coach Pat Scanlon said. "Some nights it's on, and some nights it takes some time to get going. The thing was consistent effort: We didn't frustrate ourselves, we just kept at it. We kept cool heads."

Rob Molinaro scored twice in the second period to give top-seeded Iona Prep (17-9-2) a 2-0 lead, deflecting a slap shot from Cody King 15 seconds in and then converting a centering pass from Mike Cambria with 5:16 left.

Stepinac got one back 15 seconds later on a one-timer from Zach Paisley to Dan Coughlin, and stayed within 2-1 thanks to Reagan's acrobatics. The Yonkers resident stopped two breakaways and made an incredible glove save from his back on a 2-on-0 rush by the Gaels.

"When we were up 2-1, we had a couple of backdoor opportunities that he came up with - two glove saves that really came out of nowhere - and instead of having a nice cushion, it ended up being a whole new game in the third period," Iona Prep coach Tim Turnbull said.

Stepinac tied the score on a goal by Rocco Miano 11 seconds into the third period. Cambria gave Iona Prep a 3-2 lead with 11:10 remaining, but the Crusaders came back again when Muccio stole the puck at the Gaels blue line and scored on a slap shot.

By overtime, both teams were tired and depleted. Stepinac starting defenseman Matt Heckman was out with a sprained ankle, while Molinaro, Iona Prep's faceoff specialist and the game's only multiple-goal scorer, was serving a 10-minute misconduct. But Paisley created an opportunity 11 minutes into the extra session when he stole the puck and was pulled down, leading to Yankowski's winner.

Stepinac was swept 2-0 by Chaminade in its only other finals appearance three years ago, so this was the Crusaders first win in the final round. Despite being outshot 51-36 yesterday and 98-67 in the series, it all comes down to one more game.

"If we lost, I would have been happy with our performance," said Reagan, who sported a playoff Mohawk. "But now we have a chance that no other Stepinac varsity team has had."

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

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