With four consecutive CHSHL Class A titles and seven Suffolk crowns before that, championships seem to be second nature at St. Anthony’s.
Losing, however, is not.
The Friars have had an uncharacteristic slow start to the season, leading some around the league to wonder if their reign is over.
“That motivates us more to go out there and perform better,” forward Bryan Whelan said.
St. Anthony’s proved Monday night it is still the defending champions, pounding Iona Prep, 9-2, at World Ice Arena in Flushing.
It was the Friars most complete performance since a 6-1 win over Fordham Prep to open the season.
“We are certainly capable of winning a fifth championship. It’s just a matter of getting our stuff in order and tonight was a stepping stone for us,” St. Anthony’s coach Jeff Stelmok said. “It was a good indication of the direction we need to go in.”
The win improved St. Anthony’s to 4-3-2 and moved the Friars into a third-place tie with Fordham Prep.
“The team is picking it up,” forward Tyler Barrow said. “We’re working harder, our forecheck is good and we’re moving more.”
Barrow had a huge game against the Gaels, scoring four goals and adding one assist. The sophomore had two goals in the first period, the second coming with 52 seconds remaining to give the Friars a commanding 3-0 lead into the second period.
“He’s young, the only sophomore on the team,” Stelmok said. “He’s still learning, but he’s come a very long way in a very short time. We’re seeing improvement from him on the ice and tonight it showed.”
Whelan and Bobby Lund had two goals apiece, Joey Slevin had a goal and three assists and Nick Rudzewick had three assists for St. Anthony’s, which took its physicality to Iona Prep (0-7-1), which played the Friars to a 3-3 tie Saturday.
The Gaels pulled within 4-1 on the first of Christian Van Hecke’s two goals on the power play. The forward had a chance to cut his team’s deficit to two six minutes later when he beat St. Anthony’s goaltender Liam Furboter to a loose puck at the left circle, but he put his shot off the post.
The Friars took a bevy of penalties, but the Gaels were only able to cash in with the man advantage once.
“These kids are so resilient,” Iona Prep coach Charles Berger said. “It’s not easy to keep your head up, but these kids are battling, they come to work every day and they know at some point we’re going to get some wins. We’re looking for it to be soon.”
And St. Anthony’s is looking to become that championship-caliber team once again.
“I’m hoping this puts us back on track,” Stelmok said. “It’s good to have a solid effort. We did play a little bit more of our style, more physical play, more focused on getting the puck deep and working in the offensive zone and we got a lot of pucks on net, which is a good thing for us.”