Andrew Sciarretta knows it’s his last shot at the state championship. The St. Anthony’s senior captain has been playing hockey since he was five years old and, with his high school career fast approaching its final sunset, he sure would like the lasting image of his time in black and gold to be one that brings a smile and some hardware to his school.
Sciarretta almost got one last year, with St. Anthony’s reaching the CHSAA state title game and losing in overtime to Buffalo St. Joe’s. It was a disheartening loss, one that featured a controversial no-goal call that went against the Friars in the extra period and started the offseason with the most sour of tastes.
But now, St. Anthony, 18-0, is back and ready for the rematch — which they’ll get when they face St. Joe’s at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Harborcenter in Buffalo.
“We both know how it ended last year,” said Sciarretta, who has scored four goals this season. “Both teams are going to come out hard and look to go for it.”
Despite the convenient opportunity at revenge, this season hasn’t been about wallowing in self-pity from last year’s loss or looking toward to a potential rematch with an angry obsession. Instead, last year’s loss — as disappointing as it was at the time — gave the Friars confidence that the program is already at a state-championship level.
“It was one of those ‘we can do this’ mentalities,” coach Bob Lund said. “They really took the attitude of ‘we’ve been there, we understand that we can compete,’ and I think that led to a lot of confidence . . . But it almost worked in reverse, and it was like ‘wow, we came that close, we want to get back there to see if we can get it done this time.’ ”
Getting it done will begin with a quick start, Lund said. A passive approach to the opening minutes won’t bode well for the challengers, and they are determined to make sure that doesn’t occur.
“We have to bury opportunities,” said Greg Barnych, who has scored nine goals. “Last year, we had a couple open nets and missed. That dug us deep. You have to capitalize on the opportunities that you get. You only get a couple in a big game like that and if you don’t capitalize, you’re going to lose.”
Physicality early in the game also will be key. “We need to get it in, forecheck, and use the body like we’ve been doing all year,” said Nick Cozzi, who has 12 goals and five assists. “It’s worked for us so far, so hopefully it’ll work for us again.”
For Friars of all grade levels, even ones that weren’t on the team last season, tomorrow afternoon can’t come soon enough. It’s the end to the long road that in many ways began with a loss. That road, they hope, ends in gold.
“I’m a little jittery right now,” leading goal scorer Ryan Mahlmeister (18 goals) said. “I can’t wait to play that game.”