Pictures provided by Ted Swoboda!
19 straight faceoff losses to end a game usually spells a problem and usually spells a loss, but somehow it hasn’t bit #1 Oxbridge yet. Less than a week after defeating then #1 Jupiter in spite of that 16-2 faceoff disadvantage, they replicated the result last night while losing 22 of the 25 draws taken.
Playing for the first time at STA since the dramatic 2OT loss two years ago in the FHSAA second round, the Thunderwolves rode a fast start, an efficient offense, solid defense and another strong Christian Tomei game in cage (15 saves – 65%), with a sloppy STA first half, to get out to a commanding lead and hold off the Raiders in a Top 5 matchup last night at Brian Piccolo Field. The balanced Oxbridge offense was led by Reece Riccardo’s 6G/1A and Vinny Cerasuolo’s 3G/2A as mainstays Connor Davies and Jack Kilian played more of a support role this game. STA’s Nick Yovino led the Raiders with 3G and Brock Gonzalez and Kyle Engel chipped in 2G each.
STA’s 1st half was a struggle to find rhythm and a few fast breaks were not converted due to rushed passes, when putting them away would have made a difference. The Raiders did find some more success in the second half but whenever they might have made a run to get close, Tomei would come up with the big save to stem the momentum. Although the stats show STA only made 14 turnovers the first half ones were very costly, both in preventing a great finishing opportunity, as well as giving Oxbridge their own fast break opportunities. And Oxbridge pretty much converted all their good opportunities, as is necessary when down so much in the possession battle. It hasn’t cost them a game yet, but it can’t be a comfortable feeling.
And they could play again in April . . .
Oxbridge jumped out early and often in the 1st. STA was held to 2 shots on goal versus 6 turnovers and the quarter ended with a 5-0 lead, with 5 different goal scorers. Ryan Conforti opened the scoring at 11:11 as he was left alone on the left wing and he hit the low left corner with the right hand. At 7:06 it was Cerasuolo getting under his defender on the left wing and got to left crease to finish low. At 4:39 it was Davies driving the net from the left wing and he beat the defender to the front of the net to finish to the left side. At 3:10 it was Mike Hayes at left GLE feeding Gio Villasana cutting to the left wing and his right hand shot hit the low left and with 1:20 to go Riccardo took the left wing skip pass from Cerasuolo on the right wing and he hit the top left corner for 5-0.
Just 39 seconds into the second it was Conforti finishing the EMO as he picked off the outlet pass near the midfield and was able to go straight down the field and fire the left hand low shot for 6-0. STA then finally got their offense going as they responded with two goals to cut it to 6-2. At 10:34 it was Grant Laman working behind the net and circling to the right wing and to the middle before firing a low shot that Tomei got a piece of but did not stop. That was followed by Cooper Scully driving the right alley and finding Engel in the middle for the right hand shot to the top right corner. But Oxbridge responded with two of their own to make it 8-2 at the half. First it was Kilian at 5:18, as he took the right GLE Riccardo skip pass to the top left wing for the step down low shot and at 2:37 it was another midfield turnover that was converted all alone in front by Cerasuolo as Kilian found him to end the half.
STA took advantage of their own EMO early in the third, with Yovino firing a low shot on the left wing from Kameron Katsch’s up top feed to make it 8-3 but Oxbridge responded again with 2 goals for 10-3. First it was Davies behind left finding Cerasuolo alone on the low right for the easy putaway at 9:55 and then Riccardo finishing off the fast break feed from Kilian at 8:23 with the clear path to the right side of the cage.
STA’s Gonzalez got one back at 7:08 as he spun right from the right alley and his shot hit the top far side for 10-4. Riccardo answered that one at 4:54 with the right wing swim move and the low left hand shot. Yovino answered that one at 3:24 as he worked from up top to the left wing and got a high bounce shot to go but Oxbridge scored twice in 22 seconds less than a minute later to stretch it to 13-5 after three. Riccardo scored both, with the first assisted by Davies on another skip pass step down and the second taking the Hayes pass to finish off the fast break.
STA finally got a run going in the fourth with the first three goals but were never able to get any closer. Engel cut middle and took the Scully feed from left GLE at 10:42 for 13-6. Less than two minutes later it was Gonzalez cutting to the crease and finishing the Laman feed from behind for 13-7 and Yovino finished the STA scoring at 5:22 with another bounce shot to the top left from the left wing but Oxbridge then ran clock and finally converted with Riccardo firing from 15 years straight out off the Cerasuolo feed with 2:32 to go to end it at 14-8.
Oxbridge is back in action on Saturday as they host MIAA power Boys’ Latin while STA will host Viera on Saturday too.
Faceoffs: STA 22-3
Shots: STA 34-23
Shots on Goal: STA 23-19
Turnovers: STA 14-11
Penalties: STA 4-3
Reece Riccardo 6G/1A
Vinny Cerasuolo 3G/2A
Ryan Conforti 2G
Connor Davies and Jack Kilian with 1G/2A each
Gio Villasana 1G
Mike Hayes 2A
Christian Tomei with 15 saves
Nick Yovino 3G
Brock Gonzalez and Kyle Engel with 2G each
Grant Laman 1G/1A
Cooper Scully 2A
Kameron Katsch 1A
Tucker Swinerton and Wade Lamon combined for 5 saves
Thanks to Coach Ross and Coach Crowley for talking to me before and after the game