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Celtics skate away with quarter-final victory

By Larry Moko

The Bishop Ryan boys’ hockey team experienced one of those ‘oh no, not again’ moments.

During their Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic high school quarter-final playoff at Valley Park Arena Thursday, the Celtics held a three-goal lead late in the contest against the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves.

Understandably, the Bishop Ryan players and coaches recalled their season opener on Dec. 3 at Lawfield Arena. On that occasion, Brebeuf trailed 3-0 with under five minutes left in the third period before rallying for a 4-3 victory.

The Celtics weren’t going to let that happen again. Bishop Ryan kept its composure and skated away with a 6-2 victory to advance to the semifinal round.

“We had that in the back of our mind,” Celtics coach Justin Cannon said of the previous bad experience against the Braves. “When Brebeuf popped in their second goal today we had to get the bench back together. We said ‘calm down’ get ‘back to your systems.’”

Defenceman Matthew Groppo, Nicolas Marzilli and Matt Shulist scored two goals each for the fourth-place Celtics.

Daniel Moro and Lincoln Crookshanks replied for fifth-place Brebeuf.

The Celtics, who had period advantages of 3-0 and 4-1, saw their lead shrink to a two-goal margin when Crookshanks wristed a shot on the rush past goaltender Lucas Diklic with just over five minutes remaining.

“There was no negativity on the bench,” said Groppo. “We kept moving the puck and staying within our system. We knew we would be in a good situation by the end of the game.”

Shulist’s second goal – using a teammate as a decoy on a 2-on-1 rush – restored the three-goal lead and Groppo’s second power-play goal capped the scoring. Groppo, an assistant captain, is a four-year BR veteran.

“Matthew is a very steady stay-at-home defenceman,” Cannon said. “He brings a calm demeanor. When he has the puck he slows down the pace of the game. He brings the game to him and sets things up really well.

“The guys in the room look up to him. He’s a great leader.”

Brebeuf’s first goal was scored while it played five skaters on three on the powerplay for two full minutes.

“I thought our guys played really well,” Cannon said. “We jumped out with a ton of intensity with three quick goals in the first four minutes. That’s what we preached before the game.” 

“Brebeuf is a strong team. They’ve got a good coach (Mark Fama) who has been there for a long time. He knows the league. They don’t quit.”

In HWCAA girls’ quarter-final hockey action, the St. Thomas More Knights topped Brebeuf, 4-1, and the St. Mary Crusaders defeated Bishop Ryan, 5-3. The First-place Cardinal Newman Cardinals and second-place Bishop Tonnos Titans had opening-round byes.

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