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Holy Cross hockey pulls off stunner against St. Francis

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Five minutes and 23 seconds into the Battle of the Boulevard, the Holy Cross hockey team was down three goals. Coach Kevin Goodspeed’s first instinct would’ve normally been to call a timeout and settle down his team, but not with this group.

“We have a good senior team, we have a lot of leadership, and I was confident they would do what they had to do,” the Holy Cross coach said.

He was right to feel that way. Led by captains Alan Mook, Michael Donato and Sean Dolan, the Knights never panicked. They found themselves after the shaky start, scoring the game’s final four goals to pull out a thrilling 5-4 win in Catholic High School Hockey League Class B hockey Dec. 6over St. Francis Prep at Flushing’s World Ice Arena.

“Our captains really stepped up,” Goodspeed said. “It was a leadership game.”

Goaltender J.D. Schabutti was brilliant, keeping Cross within striking distance in the first period and preserving the lead in the third. Donato, the big and talented center, scored twice, including the game-winner on a rocket of a wrist shot 4:15 into the final frame just 20 seconds after Andrew Andriopoulus pulled them even with a pretty open-ice move.

“It’s nothing better than [beating St. Francis],” Donato said. “It’s bragging rights. This is a great win.”

Schabutti had the Cross crowd on its feet throughout the third period. He made a pair of glove saves on Patrick Schule and Steven Leonard in the span of a minute, held onto a Nicholas Veljacich wrister and was able to deflect St. Francis (1-1-0, 2 points) star Patrick Schule’s slap shot in the final minute just wide.

“He stood on his head at the end,” Donato said. “We left him out to dry in the first period, we helped him out after that and he made some big saves later.”

Indeed, even in allowing three goals in the first period, Schabutti played well.

“As a goalie, I always want to keep my team in the game,” he said. “I had to not let [the early goals] throw me off.”

The moment the lead reached three goals, St. Francis Coach Mike Watts was telling his players to avoid overconfidence. Ye, after a dominant first period, the Terriers went flat.

“A lot of times when you get that lead, you leave a little opening and let the other team get back into the game,” he said. “That’s one of the first things we said to them, ‘Don’t get complacent.’ But they’re high school kids. You see it in the pros.”

The rivalry turned late in the first period when Mook set up Donato for his first of two goals. St. Francis Prep’s Aaron Acosta and Nick Bowerman of Cross traded tallies in the first minute of the second period and Steven Cacchioli got the Knights (4-0-0, 8 points) within one when he got to a loose puck in front of the net. Andriopoulus had the goal of the night to pull Cross even, shaking Schule in the neutral zone and beating Terriers goalie Steven Pelan top shelf.

Goodspeed was elated his players were able to respond after the shaky start, particularly since he thinks St. Francis, along with defending champion Archbishop Stepinac, is one of the teams to beat in the ‘B.’ His team isn’t there quite yet, despite the 4-0-0 start, but he is pleased with its development.

“We started to pick it up [after the slow start], we started to work harder, move our feet quicker, and that was the difference,” Donato said.

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