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St. Anthony’s falls short in state CHSAA title game

St. Anthony's Nick Cozzi (92) goes down as

St. Anthony's Nick Cozzi (92) goes down as St. Joseph's Niko Pavicich (22) covers him in first-period action of the CHSAA state hockey finals at Harbor Center in Buffalo on Sunday, March 5, 2017. Credit: John Hickey

BUFFALO — A shot at redemption. For 12 months, since last year’s state championship game, that’s all St. Anthony’s wanted. Just a chance to get even with St. Joe’s, the team that beat them.

The Friars got that chance, but they just didn’t get the result they were hoping for.

Jeremy Ienco scored twice and was named MVP as St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute defeated St. Anthony’s, 5-2, in the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship that was played in front of about 800 fans Sunday afternoon at the HarborCenter in Buffalo.

“I’m really proud of what we did to get here. Going undefeated in league the past two years,” Friars senior forward Greg Barnych said. “Being a Friar has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I thank God every day. Everybody should feel the same way.”

After falling to the Marauders, 2-1, in overtime in last year’s title game the Friars had been focused on the mission of getting get back and see it through.

St. Anthony’s entered Sunday’s final with an 18-0 record (14-0 in league). The Friars swept Fordham Prep 2-0 in their semifinal series before taking down rival Chaminade in two games to earn the CHSHL title.

The only other time the Friars tasted defeat this season was a 7-5 exhibition loss to Section I Pelham. But coach Bob Lund said his team treated that as a regular season loss and tried to learn the valuable lesson that you can never underestimate any opponent.

“Our goal when we came out here was we said we wanted to leave everything on the ice,” senior captain Andrew Sciaretta said. “I think every single player left everything out there.”

The Marauders struck first when Ienco, who scored the game-winner in last year’s title game, poked a loose puck past Friars senior goalie John Peterson with 9:00 left to play in the first period.

The Friars answered with a power-play goal two minutes later when Barnych scored on a wraparound that beat Donovan Boshier short side. Michael Haggerty picked up the helper on Barnych’s goal.

John Forlenza gave the Friars a brief 2-1 lead when he scored with 8:11 left in the second. But St. Joe’s responded with two quick goals by Mark Gilbert and Spencer Frome that came 44 seconds apart to give the Marauders the 3-2 lead.

“Momentum swings are huge in hockey,” Barnych said. “They score two quick ones like that and it kinda deflates you. But I think we went down to the end. We gave it a good fight.”

Peterson faced 23 shots and though the scoreboard may not reflect it, he made some key saves at crucial points to keep the Friars in the game.

Luke Pierce capped the scoring with an empty-netter. The Friars say goodbye to 13 seniors.

“I thought we had it in us to come back, it hurts,” said Lund. “[St. Joe’s] is a great club. I thought the boys played up the whole game. I don’t think they ever really got down.”

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