In the midst of one of the toughest regular seasons in program history, Brother Rice’s Matt Bachler admits the Crusaders’ confidence was shaken.
“Honestly, our hopes weren’t that high,” he said. “We were down on ourselves. We never expected to do this bad all season.”
None of that matters, now. Brother Rice is headed back to state.
The fourth-seeded Crusaders jumped to a 5-1 lead in the first quarter Saturday and hung on late for a 12-10 win over No. 2 seed Stagg in the Stagg Sectional championship game.
“We just wanted to come out and give it our all in the first quarter,” Bachler said. “We usually end up having to comeback against teams, so this was a good change for us.”
Bachler led the Crusaders (11-18), who lost in the state quarterfinals last season, with four goals. Dan Birmingham added three and Kevin Kenny made 10 saves.
Brother Rice will meet Stevenson in a state quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Stevenson.
Peter Krivanec and Nick Amendola paced Stagg (17-13) with three goals each.
The Chargers, who fell short in their quest for their first state berth, fought back from the rough first quarter and had chances late, but came up empty on three power-play opportunities in the fourth quarter, sealing their fate.
“We got good looks in the first quarter, but we just didn’t score,” Stagg coach Wes Gonzalez said. “I don’t know if we came out too excited or what. You never know how you’re going to react when you get to a big game like this.
“We’ve been working on our man-up all year and we still haven’t figured it out. I’m happy with the way the kids fought back, though.”
Down 7-3 at halftime, Stagg got within 8-7 with 4:48 left in the third, Nick Amendola leading the charge.
The Crusaders had the answer, though. Birmingham scored on a penalty shot and Peter Gurka scored off a nice pass from Luke Healy (two goals) to make it 10-7.
Bachler added a key goal with 1:05 left in the third to increase the edge to 12-9.
In contrast to Stagg, Brother Rice was deadly with a man up, going 5-for-6 on power plays.
“We changed a lot of things this week,” Brother Rice coach Tony Cichowicz said. “We knew we had to come out and play our game instead of someone else’s and that’s what we did.”
Zack Amendola scored twice for Stagg.