MIDDLETOWN – Red Bank Catholic’s ice hockey team, which won only seven games last year, completed a remarkable turnaround by defeating Howell, 6-2, and winning its first Shore Conference championship on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Middletown Ice World before a near capacity crowd.
“It was unbelievable coming off the season we had last year but our younger players stepped up this year,” said RBC goalie Mike Cosentino, who had an outstanding game in the net with 27 saves. “We wanted to score early to get the momentum going and put pressure on those guys.”
RBC had won several Handchen Cups in recent years, but this was its first Shore Conference crown.
“We played excellent defense tonight,” RBC coach Ken Carlson said. “The team is so committed and they executed the game plan perfectly.”
RBC was in control from the start, using a balanced attack during which five players scored goals.
Kevin Stickle, who scored two of the RBC goals, got the first goal at the 11:17 mark of the first quarter with a 15-yard slap shot followed by a goal by Griffin Hurley from in front of the net by on a power play at 5:07.
“Now we can say that we are the best in the Shore Conference,” Stickle said. “We won the Dowd and Handchen Cups, but not all of the top teams were there.”
Hoey made it 3-0 minutes later after being awarded a penalty shot after being tripped by a Howell defender. He used an inside-out for the goal, which was his team-leading 33rd of the season.
Alec Mintz scored his 14th goal of the season at 8:52 of the second period off a power play and Stickle scored 2 minutes later from in close for a 5-0 lead.
Howell’s Matt McNaught finally broke the shutout with a slap shot just 6 seconds remaining in the period, but Christian Bierker scored early in the final period to close out its RBC’s scoring.
“This feels awesome,” Carlson said. “We played as a team and everybody did great. Cos (Cosentino) has been outstanding. He keeps us in a lot of games.”
RBC, currently enjoying its best season ever with a 19-1-3 record, extended its unbeaten streak to 16-0-2.
RBC’s only loss this season was a 9-1 setback to state power St. Peter’s Prep back in December, but RBC is playing much better since that setback.
The two teams could play again in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A Tournament, which got under way this week, but the Caseys have a tough task ahead, starting Thursday with a road game against South Jersey power St. Augustine Prep.
A game with rival Christian Brothers Academy is also possible in the tournament if the two teams keep winning.
The teams could have played in the Shore Conference Tournament, but CBA elected to compete in the Gordon Cup, which has many of the state’s top teams, including Delbarton, St. Peter’s and Don Bosco.