Lack of offense burns Colts one last time


Staff Writer

RICH GRAESSLE CBA goaltender Gary Kondler makes a diving save during the Colts' Non-Public semifinal loss to St. Peter's Prep Saturday night at the Continental Arena in East Rutherford.RICH GRAESSLE CBA goaltender Gary Kondler makes a diving save during the Colts’ Non-Public semifinal loss to St. Peter’s Prep Saturday night at the Continental Arena in East Rutherford. A lack of offensive production finally caught up with the CBA hockey team.

And it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time.

The Colts, who have had a tough time finding the back of the net all season despite their success, came up short on the offensive end once again in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Non-Public Schools Tournament as they lost to St. Peter’s Prep 2-0 late Saturday night at Continental Airlines Arena.

“We outplayed them and outshot them, but we just didn’t score,” CBA head coach Mike Reynolds said. “That’s been our problem all year.”

Despite all that, the Colts still finished an impressive 16-4-6 and came within one game of reaching the state finals.

In fact, CBA came into Saturday’s game with an eight-game winning streak and unbeaten in its last 12 games.

“We played well all season,” Reynolds, who completed his 15th year at CBA and 30th overall coaching hockey, said. “We won the Gordon Cup with a 1-0 win over Delbarton, the No. 1 team in the state. We hadn’t won that in 10 years.”

The Colts were also hoping to add the fifth state championship in the program’s history to their list of laurels. But with No. 1 CBA and No. 3 St. Peter’s locked in a scoreless battle, Tim Miller finally broke through for the Jersey City school when he took a nice behind-the-back feed from Mike Maffei and fired the puck past CBA goalie Gary Kondler.

Then with Reynolds sending everyone up in hopes of scoring the equalizer in the closing minutes, Michael Dellutri tallied an insurance goal on a breakaway with 1:32 remaining.

“We had to go on the offense so we sent everybody up,” Reynolds explained. “We hadn’t scored yet so we had to do something different, and we let (Dellutri) get loose. We covered him pretty good all game.”

Meanwhile, CBA fired 23 shots at the St. Peter’s net, but goalie Kevin Fox turned them all aside to record his sixth shutout of the season. Kondler, who posted his sixth shutout in CBA’s 2-0 win over Notre Dame in the quarterfinals last Monday, also played well as he kept St. Peter’s off the board for more than 41 minutes.

“Gary had a good game. The goal they scored wasn’t his fault,” Reynolds said. “He kept us in the game. I think both he and the St. Peter’s goalie will make first-team all-state.”

Still, heading into the third period, the game was going the way the Colts had hoped, which was to play good defense and wait for an opportunity on offense. That’s been their M.O. all season.

“We were playing well defensively,” Reynolds said. “That’s kind of been our system and it worked well the last eight games. But we didn’t score on any power plays in the first and second periods and we count on that.”

St. Peter’s made sure the Colts didn’t get too many chances.

“We had only one power play the entire game,” Reynolds pointed out. “We should have had a couple of more, but I thought the refs did a good job of letting them play.”

How good has CBA’s defense been this season? During their 12-game unbeaten streak, the Colts allowed only 11 goals.

The Colts’ rock-solid defense was on display in last Monday’s quarterfinal contest as well as they blanked Notre Dame at Mennen Arena in Morris Township.

“We outplayed them and I think we outshot them 34-11,” Reynolds noted. “But once again we went into the third period with no score.”

Junior wing Mark Rivera, the Colts’ leading scorer, finally broke the scoreless deadlock 3:10 into the final stanza with a shot that just snuck inside the right post. Matt Jensen and Mike Zuppe picked up assists. Rivera then set up the second goal with a perfect pass to Jensen, who fired the puck past Delibero at the 8:56 mark to make it 2-0.

Unfortunately, that would turn out to be CBA’s last goal of the season as they came up empty against St. Peter’s Prep. It also marked the first time the Jersey City school had beaten CBA in hockey.

St. Peter’s finally ended its winless hex against CBA, but they had to wait an extra day to do it. The semifinal game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but postponed because of the ice storm and moved to Saturday night.

The game wasn’t over, however, until nearly 1 o’clock Sunday morning.

“It was supposed to start at 10:30, which was bad enough,” Reynolds said. “But they had two overtime games before us.”

As a result, the CBA-St. Peter’s game didn’t face off until 11:17 p.m. and didn’t get over until 12:57 a.m., making it the latest post-season event in the history of the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association.

St. Peter’s, the third seed, will now face No. 5 St. Augustine for the state title Friday at 8 p.m. at Mennen Arena. St. Augustine, which beat No. 2 and defending state champion Delbarton 3-2 in overtime Saturday, is 22-0 and with a win can become the first unbeaten, untied team in state history.

Meanwhile, CBA is left to ponder how a successful season could have been even better with just a little more offense.

“If we had one go-to guy, we’d probably be in the finals,” Reynolds, who led CBA to state crowns in 1994, ’95, ’96 and 2005, said. “We scored only four goals in our last three games, but we let in three and we’re knocked out.

“But I still thought we had a very good year for what we did. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to play at the Meadowlands and we did that.”