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Columbus Catholic Stuns St. Thomas In Fourth Quarter to Win 11-8

Written by Lee Roggenburg on . Posted in .
Winning Ugly.  A term used is sports when the winning team perseveres to despite a mistake-prone game. Columbus Catholic took their program to the next level Friday with a stunning fourth quarter performance by Steven Fernandez and Grant Nordlund, who combined for 5 goals and 2 assists in the quarter to lead their team to an 11-8 win in a ‘Sweet 16’ match-up.  CC found a way to win despite turning the ball over more times than they shot it (32 to 26).  They made the most of their shots by putting 19 of the 26 on goal and converting on 11 of those 19.  A highly efficient offense, when it clicked.  STA played a similar game with 26 turnovers but really hurt themselves by only putting 22 of their 44 shots on goal, and their poor shooting kept them from taking over the game early when they were controlling play in the first half. Coming into the game both teams were red hot with STA having won 7 in a row and CC having won 14 straight.  STA had handled CC early in the regular season and the playoff rematch was pretty much inevitable as these two teams were clearly the class of the lower brackets of the playoffs.  The styles of each team also added intrigue as CC was arguably as physical (or more) as STA and the CC offense had improved greatly from the beginning of the season until now. Both teams came out attempting to run the other into the ground.  The team speed of CC stood out to me and CC’s offensive strategy seemed designed to take advantage of their speed.  STA looked to have the better overall stick skills and were better able to utilize one-on-one dodging tactics.  It looked to me like CC then game-planned their offense to spread out along the wings and allow their faster players like Sebi Cancio to dodge from up top, break down the STA defense, and look for cutters coming off the wing.  In the second half, and particularly in the fourth, that strategy moved more down to the two attackmen, who utilized the space to create the opportunities that led to the fourth quarter rally.  Because of the high number of turnovers STA would attempt to create fast break opportunities utilizing their skills but more often than not the fast break led to a shot that missed the cage.  And when they did hit the net, like in the second quarter when they did put 7 of 8 shots on goal, CC goalie Michael Davide came up big, saving 5 of those 7.  At no point during the game did STA find their full rhythm in settled situations and that also factored into the final result.  CC basically forced STA into playing a more frenetic pace and in the end that proved to be the difference as CC pulled it out. CC STA #1 The first period started out fast and sloppy as the two teams combined for 19 first quarter turnovers versus 18 shots.  Kyle Mamane opened the scoring for STA three minutes into the game unassisted on a left wing dodge and far corner shot.  CC’s Cancio tied the game just 12 seconds later, winning the faceoff and dodging down the middle to score unassisted.  CC’s Alec Carreras fired home a low corner bullet at 4:56 to put CC up by one.  STA’s RJ Curtin tied the game with 42 seconds left on a one-on-one move off the left wing, finishing with a nice overhand shot to send the teams to the second tied at 2-2. STA came out in the second with intent to take over the game but Davide’s play kept STA at bay until Griffin Melzer took JP Crowley’s feed from behind and potted it at 6:40 on an EMO advantage.  Less than two minutes later STA’s Fernando Milanes scored a shorthand goal at 4:52 unassisted, bouncing a shot from the right wing on isolation to push the lead to 4-2.  STA then won the next faceoff (one of the factors in the first three quarters was that CC was able to hold their own on face-offs against STA’s Joey Dorn, who did not dominate the face-offs until the fourth quarter) and called time to set up.  The offense sputtered and CC was able to score a key goal at 3:01 on Carerras’ second, where he dodged down the right alley and placed a low-corner shot past STA’s Ben Tobin to make it 4-3, where the half ended.  In retrospect, this turned out to be the turning point of the game as STA was on the verge of stretching the lead out and maybe breaking CC’s confidence.  The 4-3 lead was a confidence booster for CC, even though they trailed since they had committed 19 first half turnovers and were outshot 19-11 but only trailed by the lone goal.  And it showed in the third period. Hernandez and Nordlund gave an indication of what was to come by combining twice in the first 3:30 of the third quarter to give CC their first lead since the first period.  First, Hernandez scored from Nordlund on a crease feed from the left wing off Nordlund’s dodge and then Nordlund took a cross-crease feed from Hernandez on a fast break and suddenly STA trailed.  Two minutes later, at 7:36, STA’s Curtin tied the game off Alex Tumminello’s feed, taking a long pass to the front of the CC goal, scoring all alone in front.  Tumminello earned the assist by winning a loose ball off a multi-player scramble and finding Curtin down the field.  At the 3:51 mark CC’s Cody Brais scored unassisted off a left alley dodge to put CC back up 6-5 only to be answered by Mamane’s second at 1:33, with him backing down his defender and beating Davide with a low, semi-screened shot to set up the fireworks of the fourth quarter.  Again, STA’s shooting woes hurt them greatly as they only hit the nets on 4 of 12 shots in the quarter, many of them long distance attempts. In the fourth quarter CC’s physical play really started to take hold.  Dorn dominated the face-offs in the quarter, going 6 for 7 but STA was not able to take advantage of the extra possessions.  CC’s confidence had grown throughout the game and with a boisterous home crowd getting into the game it lifted their play immensely. CC STA #3 At 10:51 Nordlund took Hernandez’ EMO crease feed off a 2 on 1 break to put CC up 7-6.  The teams then took turns with possessions and no scoring occurred for the next five minutes.  Then in a span of 2:42 CC broke the game open with the Grant and Steven show.  At 5:17 Hernandez scored unassisted off a dodge to the middle of the field on an EMO situation.  CC was penalized for excessive celebration on the play but was able to kill off the EMO.  On the next possession STA took their own penalty and at 3:22 Hernandez broke down the STA defense on a middle dodge and found Nordlund cutting to the net off the weak side and Nordlund buried it to make it 9-6.  37 seconds later Hernandez buried an Omar Shabaz pass as STA tried to double the carrier, leaving their net open.  Hernandez didn’t miss and with 2:45 left CC had pulled in front 10-6.  STA didn’t give up and Zach Schwartz pulled one back from a cross cage feed from Curtin at 1:47.  After regaining possession CC again converted on an open net as Hernandez scored his third of the period from Carreras’ feed with 1:01 to go.  Curtin then scored a late goal with 00:25 on the clock to make the final 11-8. Unfortunately after the game tempers got heated as the coaching staff at STA got into a yelling match with administrators at CC.  Thankfully cooler heads prevailed and the incident ended rather quickly and without incident as the players lined up for the hand shake. For CC’s home crowd a chance to bask in what is probably the school’s biggest win ever and for STA a frustrating end to what was an excellent season up to that point.  Stripping out the second quarter, STA was able to only place 15 of 32 shots on goal.  That hurt them two-fold:  the first was that they missed opportunities to build a big lead early in the game when they were taking control and the second is that it allowed CC to gain confidence and overcome so many turnovers. Team Statistics: Face-offs:  STA 14 – CC 7 (in the first three quarters it was only 8-6) Shots:  STA 44 – CC 26 SOG:  STA 22 – 19 Turnovers:  CC – 32 – STA 26 Penalties:  STA 6 – CC 4 Individually, for CC, Hernandez ended with 4G/3A (all in the second half!), Nordlund with 3G/1A (also all in the second half), Carreras with 2G/1A, Cancio and Brais added goals and Shabaz with the assist.  Davide finished with 14 saves. For STA, Curtin finished with 3G/1A, Mamane with 2G, Milanes, Schwartz and Melzer with one each and Crowley and Tumminello with assists.  Tobin finished with 8 saves. CC moves on to Tuesday’s home gain with defending state champion Saint Andrew’s in the Elite Eight.  The game will start at 7:00pm.  It will be interesting to see if CC’s momentum carries through as they seek to unseat SA, a team they lost to 17-0 last season in the opener.  Or will SA’s star senior class show them how much further they need to go?