Each time DeMatha goalie Andrew Takacs skated behind his net to retrieve another clearance, the cheers from the purple half of The Gardens Ice House in Laurel grew a little louder. Midway through the third period of Friday night¡¯s Mid-Atlantic Prep Hockey League final, Gonzaga was killing off a five-minute power play with a one-goal lead.
After the Stags failed to put a shot on goal and wasted their advantage,?Gonzaga¡¯s Chase Vallese seized the opportunity for the Eagles.
The senior captain delivered a one-timer to pad the lead?and Junior forward Will Rosen added an empty-netter in the final seconds to cap a 4-1 win as the Eagles repeated as league champions for the first time since 2014.
¡°When I felt it come off my stick, I was like, ¡®That¡¯s a good shot. That¡¯s definitely going in,¡¯?¡± said Vallese, who scored the game-winning goal in last year¡¯s final from nearly the exact same spot on the ice. ¡°Same place as last year and same result. I can¡¯t name a better feeling to close it out with two straight wins here.¡±
Junior forward Jonathan Matta scored to give No. 5 DeMatha (26-10-2) a 1-0 lead three minutes into the game. From there, the Eagles steadily seized control of the contest with puck possession.
On the first power play for No.?1 Gonzaga (22-5-1), sophomore forward Cole Vallese faked a slap shot from straight away and slid a pass to classmate Luca Docking. The defenseman¡¯s one-timer from the circle beat the goalie to the near post to tie the game.
The Stags tracked the younger Vallese brother all over the ice, but the league¡¯s player of the year was still able to facilitate most of Gonzaga¡¯s chances.
¡°You got to know that your teammates have your back. If they¡¯re keying on you, they¡¯re taking themselves out of the game and leaving space for your teammates to do the work,¡± said Cole Vallese, who is verbally committed to Providence ¡°It doesn¡¯t matter if they¡¯re keying on me. I trust my family.¡±
Junior forward Tommy Krisztinicz crossed a pair of back-skating defensemen and released a left-handed wrist shot from the left circle that dropped into the right corner to give the Eagles their first lead midway through the second period. In total, Gonzaga did not allow a goal during 17 penalty minutes.
¡°Going into it we knew that we had to keep our head no matter the situation. And through that five minute penalty and the whole game, I think we did that,¡± junior defenseman Henry Middlebrook said.
Gonzaga has won five of the last nine MAPHL finals.
Read more on high school sports: