Second period splurge lifts Cadets past Eagles

High school hockey just might be one of the more unpredictable sports.

Both St. Joseph’s Marty Crouse and Trumbull’s Greg Maxey, whose teams squared off last week at The Rinks in Shelton, were quick to admit that fact after the Division I Cadets’ 6-4 victory over the Division II Eagles.

St. Joseph (7-4) scored four second-period goals, including two from junior defenseman Vito Roca to break the game open.

Maxey’s players rallied from a 6-2 deficit after two periods to close the gap. The venture, however, came a little too late.

“We got much better as a team tonight,” said Crouse, whose club had dropped back-to-back decisions to Ridgefield (6-5 in overtime and 4-1). “We’re looking to get some rhythm, and tonight, we were able to play some kids who had not seen much action so far. There’s still a lot of room for improvement though.”

Roca scored his first two career goals and is beginning to earn more playing time.

St. Joseph took a 2-0 lead in the first period despite an outstanding 15 minutes of play from Trumbull’s senior goalie Matt Paolini, who made 23 saves.

Mark Laoue beat Paolini at 7:47 after taking a pass from Sean Hurley, and Christian Keator’s high wrist shot on a pass from Colin Powell made it 2-0 at 13:46.

Trumbull’s Sean Gallagher cut that lead in half when he netted a goal just 22 seconds into the second period.

The Cadets came right back as Roca got his first score on a blistering shot from the right point at 4:35, while his team was on a power play, and Ryan Corcoran’s unassisted tally at 7:16 after he scooped up a loose puck in the Trumbull end and put it home for a 4-1 lead.

“We’ve been doing that all year long,” Maxey said of his Eagles. “We get a nice goal (from Gallagher) and then we give it right back. Our kids played very hard tonight and we had a good third period.”

After Hurley made it a 5-1 game at 9:44, Trumbull’s Brendan McGill chased down an errant puck in St. Joseph’s end of the ice while his team was short-handed, brought it toward Cadet goalie Marc Van Etten, before beating him from in close. It was a pure effort goal and didn’t go unnoticed by Maxey.

“He (McGill) just hustles every game,” Maxey said. “He plays so hard that he gets hurt often. He always gives you that gutsy effort.”

St. Joseph extended its lead to 6-2 on an unassisted goal by Roca at 13:55.

Goals by Nat Walker, unassisted at 4:13, and by junior Luke Bolton, with an assist to Gallagher, generated the final outcome.

Bolton scored with just 14 seconds left in the game.

“We made some mistakes tonight,” Crouse said. “When you have five or six miscues against a team like Trumbull, you’re going to give up goals like we did in the third period.

“But I wanted to play more kids in that period, and I felt that our lead was comfortable enough.”

The loss dropped Trumbull to 2-9 and the defending Division II state champions have a long road ahead just to qualify for postseason play.

Meanwhile, the Cadets are one victory away from making the postseason.

“I’d hoped that we’d have a little better record right now than the one we have,” Crouse said. “It’s the mistakes which came at the wrong time. I think we could’ve been on the up side of a few of those losses.”

The game against Trumbull, however, belonged to the Cadets who held a commanding 50-18 margin in shots.

Paolini had 44 saves. His counterpart Van Etten made 14 stops.