The Prep League title may have already been decided — Norfolk Academy wrapped that up nearly a week ago — but Collegiate and St. Anne’s-Belfield knew what was on the line Tuesday night.
Win, and you’re staying out of the No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the VISAA Division I playoffs, lose and you’re facing an uphill climb potentially against Paul VI or Norfolk Academy in the quarterfinals if you can survive the first round.
The Saints, the No. 7-ranked squad in Division I and No. 6-ranked Cougars played a game worthy of the stakes, with St. Anne’s prevailing in double overtime 8-7.
“The ball is going back-and-forth and it’s on their side it could be the end or it’s on our side and it could be the end and it’s just really stressful,” said STAB senior defender Evan Swett. “That last goal was just such a relief, you could really feel it.”
STAB’s Javon Johnson gave the Saints the game-winner with a shot that pushed a touch wide of the goal but went in on the ricochet to end a wild finish to regulation and a grueling overtime.
“I got the isolation and we didn’t have a slide coming so I pulled it — a little wide but it ricocheted in,” Johnson said. “A goal is a goal, we’ll take it.”
The Saints actually appeared to be pushing towards a narrow, but comfortable win in regulation, holding a 6-4 lead at halftime. That was in part because the Saints, at least for a night, shored up an Achilles’ heel, at the faceoff. STAB has struggled to win faceoffs, but managed a 9-9 split with the Cougars including a 6-5 advantage in the first half.
“Douglas ‘Go-Go’ Brooks had a wonderful game at X, he gave us a lot of 50-50s which gave us a lot of possessions,” Johnson said. “He changed the momentum of the game because usually we don’t win that many faceoffs. He just gave us a chance”
That gave the Saints’ offense more chances proportionally than normal. STAB largely took care of the ball with long possessions the norm as Collegiate opted for a zone approach to try and slow down the Saints. The offense didn’t pour it in, but they did manage to execute when they needed to, particularly early on, with Sav Moore scoring twice while Michael McGraw, Emmett Barger, Gunni Horridge and Pierre Reeves notching one goal each. McGraw added three assists while Barger and Trent Moran each had two assists.
Defensively, the Saints countered Collegiate’s most explosive threat, Joseph White, with a heavy dose of Michael DiGiacomo. White managed a goal and two assists in the defensive struggle, an acceptable output for the Saints considering his explosive talent.
“We knew they played fast so we just tried to keep it nice and compact and get them to take some outside shots,” Swett said. “They have Joe White, a five-year starter who just passed 400 points, so we put our best lockdown defender, Michael DiGiacomo on him. We knew he could get the work done and he did.”
White, a Penn State commit, got some help too as the Cougars managed to rally in the fourth quarter, including Jack Piland’s goal with just 7.7 seconds left on the clock that sent the game to overtime. Ben Tavenner scored twice to lead the Collegiate offense while Edward Sinnott, Talmadge Hope and T Brewer each scored a goal.
Johnson scored twice for STAB including the overtime game-winner, a fitting cap to senior night for the Michigan signee who returned to the fold this year for the Saints after a year in Tennessee as a junior. He took his fair share of abuse during the game, absorbing a series of hard hits in a physical game and one stick check that removed his helmet. Johnson kept coming back, every single time.
“He’s a great leader and it was great to see him make that play even though the offense was struggling a little bit today,” said STAB coach Bo Perriello.
STAB keeper Jeffrey Perkins finished with nine saves on the night.
The Cougars will get one more chance to make its case to the VISAA selection committee against St. Christopher’s Thursday while STAB, now riding a two-game win streak, now turns its attention toward the state tournament. Both teams will find out their seeding Sunday.
— scrimmageplay (@scrimmageplay) May 9, 2018