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Rivals Iona Prep and Fordham Prep went head-to-head, and occasionally toe-to-toe, before a packed house on Friday at Playland Ice Casino.
And the Gaels treated their fans to an early Christmas present.
Iona Prep blanked the Rams, 3-0, behind a pair of goals from Phil Logerfo goals and stellar goal-keeping from David Commender.
“In a Fordham Prep/Iona game, for some reason the kids lose a little focus,” second-year Iona coach Mike Bonelli said. “It’s a good rivalry and though we couldn’t take advantage early, we didn’t get frustrated and fortunately for us we just got through it.”
Neither team was able to mount a precision attack in the first period. Fordham committed three penalties in the first eight minutes. Though Iona never managed to profit from the power plays, the perpetual penalty killing put Fordham into a defensive mindset that they could never break out of.
In hockey, when the offense isn’t clicking, the best course of action is to throw the puck at the net and hope something happens. After a nifty move to lose his defender behind the net, Logerfo did just that. His shot glanced off a Fordham defender’s skate and past the goalie for a 1-0 Iona lead with six minutes to go in the second period.
That goal turned the Gaels from a team trying not to make mistakes into a confident team ready to attack. Fortunately, they also had Commender on their side.
The junior netminder was flawless in net with 23 saves, showcasing a deceptively fast glove hand and the ability to smother shots and avoid rebound chances. The junior won a battle in the preseason against the incumbent goalie to earn his job and is currently 6-0 as a starter. Commender and his defense have become the strength of the team.
“I couldn’t feel better right now,” Commender said. “It all starts off of the ice. All of the chemistry is there, even in school. We just keep playing our game, never lose focus and keep our eye on the W. That’s how you play the game.”
Logerfo scored his second of the game just seconds into the third period and the Gaels were off and running with a 2-0 lead. Both sides continued to trade penalties and the game was physical to say the least.
Iona’s Jack McDermott picked up a loose puck at the blue line and took it all the way for a 3-0 lead with just under six minutes to go in regulation. Fordham kept gunning for the net and looked to break through with four minutes to go, however, the goal was disallowed due to a hand pass right in front of the goal mouth.
Commender stayed focused to the end, stoning a Fordham attempt on the doorstep with three seconds left to preserve the shutout.
“(Commender) is a stabilizing force for us right now,” Bonelli said. “He gives up limited rebounds and keeps the puck in front of him. He really reads our defensemen well and he’s in the game the whole time. He’s been rock solid for us.”
Fordham and Iona meet one more time this season. If you want to watch hard-nose hockey in front of devoted fans, then show up at Playland on January 7th at 4:15 p.m. You certainly won’t regret it.
GAME NOTES: After a 6-5 win in their first matchup this year, Iona came out hungry and handled the Fordham offense with ease. Coach Bonelli thought it was the Gaels finest defensive effort of the year and Commender and his defense are really starting to click. Fordham never attacked with consistency and what little opportunities they had were turned aside by Commender’s brilliant goal keeping.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Silent night, goalie night: David Commender was simply perfect. He made easy saves, difficult saves and great saves and he made them all look routine. Fordham consistently crashed the net looking for rebounds but they were never there thanks to the junior’s uncanny ability to make clean saves.
2. Lucky bounces: After a scoreless first period where both sides struggled with their offensive sets, Iona caught a break when their first goal bounced in off of a Fordham defender’s skate just a minute into the second. The goal seemed to loosen the Gaels up while having the opposite effect on the Rams.
3. Penalties kill: Fordham was constantly on the penalty kill during the first period which may have had an effect on their ability to find their rhythm offensively. Even when at even strength the Rams were playing as if they were a man down and often looked to just clear the puck rather than set up plays.
IONA (6:30) Phil Logerfo from Erik Oddoux – 1-0 IONA
IONA (14:02) Logerfo from Gino Chiarello – 2-0 IONA
IONA (5:35) Jack McDermott – 3-0 IONA
Iona: Phil Logerfo (2G); Jack McDermott (1G); Gino Chiarello (1A); Erik Oddoux (1A)
Iona: David Commender (23 saves)
Fordham: Richard Gullo (12 saves)
Iona: 6 3 6 15
Fordham: 6 9 8 23