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Stepinac freezes out Iona Prep

Posted Friday, January 16, 2009 by LoHud.com

YONKERS - There is plenty of room on the Archbishop Stepinac bench, and not much time to enjoy it. There are just 12 players on the roster, meaning half the team is on the ice at any given time.

On most nights, having so few players might work against a team. But when it's a game played late at night in single-digit temperatures, it can be a surprising asset.

In frigid conditions at Murray's Ice Rink, the Crusaders were successful in staying in constant motion against rival Iona Prep, and the result was a 5-1 win. Behind two goals and two assists from senior Steven Yankowski and 33 saves by freshman goaltender Michael Lanero, Stepinac avenged a loss earlier this season and a crushing defeat in last season's CHSHL finals.

"I think it can be an advantage," Yankowski said of the team's thin roster. "It's not like we get tired. And if we get momentum, we can just keep it going. But it was cold tonight. We all had to wear ski masks."

The Crusaders did get momentum in one frenetic burst in the second period. After a scoreless first period, Stepinac erupted for four goals in the span of less than five minutes. The game winner was scored by senior forward Rob Docherty, who notched his first varsity goal when he collected a puck in the slot and wristed it past Iona Prep's Joseph Gizzo with 4:25 remaining in the middle period.

After falling 5-2 to Iona Prep earlier this season, the Crusaders may have benefited last night from the absence of two of the Gaels' top forwards, Alex Lopez and Rob Molinario, both of whom were serving a suspension from an earlier game. But the most important boost came from Lanero, who had a shaky outing in the first meeting between the two teams, but who was brilliant last night.

"I think Mike was a little nervous in that game, but he was much more comfortable tonight," Docherty said. "He really stepped it up."

The Crusaders all relished the challenge presented by the defending league champions. They drew a 5-on-3 advantage early in the first period and seemed to lose some momentum when they failed to score. But they persisted, and eventually broke through when Yankowski knocked a loose puck past Gizzo with 5:15 remaining in the second.

"We don't have a big roster so we depend on puck movement," said Stepinac coach Pat Scanlon, whose team moved into second place behind Monsignor Farrell at 6-3. "We just have to have everyone knowing their role."

Iona Prep got its lone goal from senior Brian Baum, who cut Stepinac's lead to 4-1 with six seconds remaining in the second period. But that was as close as the Gaels would get. They dropped to 4-5-1 in league play.

"Depth-wise this is one of the best teams we've had," Iona Prep coach Tim Turnbull said before the game. "We just haven't found that consistency yet."

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