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Terriers blow lead, tie HC

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St. Francis Prep has played from ahead and it has played from behind. Through 90 minutes of hockey, however, the Terriers have yet to find a way to beat rival Holy Cross.

They took a point Jan. 9 from the Catholic High School Hockey League Class B leaders, but the Terriers were far from satisfied after successfully rallying from a three-goal deficit 7:08 into the opening period. That’s because St. Francis blew a late lead and had to settle for a 6-6 draw at the World Ice Arena in Flushing.

Instead of trailing the Knights by just a point atop the division, the Terriers remain three back with five games remaining.

“I’m not happy with the one point — we should’ve taken two,” St. Francis Coach Mike Watts said. “It’s like we never played the game.”

The Terriers (6-2-2, 14 points) seemed poised to take the two points that Watts wanted after Aaron Acosta scored from the right circle with 6:28 remaining and St. Francis went on the power play just a minute later. But Acosta took a bad penalty and Michael Donato scored the last of his four goals, getting to the rebound of his own slap shot with 2:50 to go 10 seconds before the main advantage ended.

“He caught us flat-footed,” Watts said. “He took advantage of the situation.”

Each side had chances in the final frantic moments, particularly the Knights (7-1-1, 17 points). Alan Mook and Nick Bowerman each had shots in close that goaltender John Doyle was able to turn away. After a shaky start, Doyle was brilliant in making 35 saves, several of them from point-blank range.

Cross wasn’t exactly thrilled with the draw either. It could’ve taken a commanding five-point lead had it held on to an early lead. Instead, the division is still very much up for grabs. Plus, there is nothing to crow about — ties are like kissing your sister, Donato said.

“Nobody gets bragging rights,” he said. “Just congratulations to both teams for working hard.”

Unlike the first meeting, when St. Francis raced out to a large early led, everything went right for Cross off the bat. After Andrew Andriopoulus and Cody Frucht tallied early goals, Donato roofed a slap shot to make it 3-0.

But like that first matchup, the struggling squad rebounded. Cross’ Tommy Krotz and John Murray took ill-advised penalties and Travis Lippert and Nicholas Veljacich made them pay. Schule got Prep even at 3-all, when he crashed the net for his first of two goals 4:18 into the second period.

“That hurt us,” Cross Coach Kevin Goodspeed said. “They got probably the best power play in the division and you have to be on your ‘A’ game when killing [penalties] against them. We had a few mistakes and they took advantage and they got back into the game.”

The teams alternated goals the rest of the way, Prep going ahead 4-3 on Schule’s tally, but Cross responding as Donato potted two more to make it 5-4. The Terriers got even again on a Steve Leonard even-strength goal 7:49 into the third before the two teams traded goals yet again down the stretch.

“I thought both teams played well,” Goodspeed said. “Our boys fought hard and it was indicative of the score. We’re happy we got a point out of it.”

Both teams felt this wasn’t the last of the Battle of the Boulevard this year. A playoff rematch is a definite possibility. And while Cross has bragging rights — it won the first meeting and took a draw in the second — St. Francis could’ve prevailed in each encounter.

“We know we should’ve beat them,” Schule said. “We’re very familiar with them after two games.”

Thus far, Cross has bragging rights and the division lead. But the ultimate prize looms.

“We’ll see them in the championship,” Schule confidently predicted.

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