By Paul LaTour
WOODRIDGE -- As a coach and former player at Benet for 15 years Jon Grzbek has witnessed a lot of Chicago Catholic Hockey League games over the years. But he’d never quite seen anything like what transpired in the Kennedy Cup quarterfinals that ended with Benet’s 4-3 victory over St. Rita in Game 3 on Monday night at Seven Bridges Ice Arena.
Third-period goals by Jeremy DeWilkins and Cole Rosenthal helped the third-seeded Redwings overcome deficits of 2-0 and 3-2. Benet advanced to the Kennedy Cup semifinals to face No. 2 Providence Catholic in a series that begins at 8:30 p.m. on Friday at Arctic Ice Arena in Orland Park.
In almost every way the series with the Mustangs was as close as close could get. Benet held a slight 11-10 goal differential after all three games were decided by one goal. Not only that, but all the games ended 4-3, with the first two needing an overtime to decide. The teams combined for 279 shots on goal and 258 saves in the three games.
“As a player and as a coach I’ve never had a first round series like this. Never,” Grzbak said. “Seriously, I’ve never been involved in one. I don’t know of another one. St Rita, all the credit to them. That series could have gone either way.”
A big reason it went Benet’s way was the Redwings power play, which produced two goals in Game 3 and four for the series. Cole Rosenthal’s game-winner with 8:46 remaining came on the man advantage on a play similar to the one he assisted on earlier in the night.
With it tied 3-3, Rosenthal, who quarterbacks the Redwings power play from the blue line, sent a quick wrist shot from the high slot. The puck made it through a crowd of players and past goalie A.J. Petrulis, who stopped 22 shots in the game and 120 in the series.
“We’re very confident in our power play, moving it around,” said Rosenthal, who also had the game-winning goal in Benet’s Game 2 victory. “I saw a lane and just tried to get it on net and shoot for a rebound. When you put it towards the net good things happen.”
It was the first and only lead the Redwings (17-8-2 in CCHL play) needed to win the game.
The Mustangs (12-13-2) came out firing, scoring twice in the opening 1:41 on goals from Danny Byrne and Frank Consiglio. Byrne struck just 18 seconds into the contest, taking a Luke Maher pass from below the goal line and ripping a wrister over the glove of William Janus from the slot.
Consiglio followed 83 seconds later, capitalizing on a fluke deflection as the puck ricocheted off a referee behind the net right to Consiglio in the slot. Consiglio swatted a backhander to beat Janus over the glove again.
“We wanted to be structurally sound with them and then counter,” Mustangs coach Brian Coleman said. “We got a couple bounces that put pucks on our tape in the slot that we buried. You don’t get a lot of chances so we buried those two and it was a good start.”
St. Rita finished the first period holding that 2-0 lead. The second period was a different story as the Redwings roared back.
The comeback started on a deflection in front by Zandis Hoover of a Rosenthal shot for a power-play goal at 13:13. Hudson Schlie also assisted.
The teams exchanged scoring chances until the Redwings were able to notch the tying goal at 6:14. Cade Rosenthal, Cole’s brother, beat Petrulis with a wrist shot through a screen. Gianluca DiCosola was credited with the goal, but video replay showed it was Rosenthal’s goal.
But DiCosola deserves some credit on the goal as the play started with a St. Rita turnover following DiCosola’s big hit along the boards in the Mustangs zone.
The game remained tied into the third period when the Mustangs own power play got to work. They began the period with the man advantage and ended up with a 5-on-3 for 43 seconds after an early Benet penalty.
The Redwings managed to kill off the two-man disadvantage, but couldn’t escape unharmed from the situation.
Brendan Harkins gave St. Rita the lead back with his first goal of the series, coming at 14:30. Harkins won a faceoff to Janus’ left before maneuvering into the slot. Jack Willette gathered the puck along the boards and sent a pass to Harkins, whose wrist shot through a crowd found the net behind Janus, who finished with 26 saves on the night and 138 for the series.
DeWilkins was able to tie it for Benet just over three minutes later on a nifty individual effort. DeWilkins stole the puck from a defender near the left face-off dot in the Mustangs zone. He slid the puck through the defender’s skates and then roofed a shot over Petrulis’ glove before anybody could recover.
“I saw the (defender) going far side and then I saw he whiffed on the pass, so I went to get the puck.” DeWilkins said. “Once I got it I put it through his legs then I saw the goalie cheating blocker side so I went over his glove.”
It was DeWilkins’ third goal of the series, having scored once in each of the previous games.
“He’s had three really good games in this series,” Grzbek said. “In order for us to go far we need to go past our first line and get the other lines scoring. He’s part of that other group that needs to be scoring. He played really well.”
Trailing by one goal late in the game, St. Rita struggled to get its goalie off for an extra man. It wasn’t until just over 30 seconds remained that Petrulis was able to reach the bench but the Mustangs were never able to get an attempt to tie the game.
“I don’t know what you can take away from a game like this,” Coleman said. “When you’re out, you’re out. You try not to think about it too much. It just sucks. I feel for the kids, especially the seniors in (the locker room). That’s the end of their Catholic League run and they’re great kids and great players. Their leadership skills are off the charts.”