15-year hiatus no hindrance for McNeil
Making the TDCAA semifinals is more than a success for Neil McNeil after a 15-year break from league play.
It’s a chance for their senior boys to hit the ice at a competitive level, according to coach Tony Fiorino.
“Really, senior hockey is somewhere between a AA or AAA level,” he said of the competition in the Catholic school board. “So if we start throwing in house league and single-A guys, they’re going to get killed.
“Some of these guys that we have — Brian (Worth), and even Mike (D’Agostini) — have really, really developed well.”
March 3, however, proved the squad needed some fine-tuning as they lost game two of their playoff series 5-1 to Michael Power Trojans.
“You have to feel a game like today to appreciate games like the one before,” Fiorino said. “They had a lot of confidence prior to this game.”
In the first period Power broke open the scoring as Rob Vleck scored on the powerplay from Joe Menacola and Eric DiCarlo.
Thereafter, the Maroons had a chance to tie things up on a breakaway by D’Agostini. However, the dreadful ting of hitting the crossbar was the only feedback.
“That could have turned the game around,” Fiorino said. “It was 1-0 at the time.
“Simple little bounces. Simple little bounces.”
Then McNeil was hit with a deflating own goal as the puck went off D’Agostini’s heel and past goalie Michael Ambrozewicz.
Though D’Agostini was upset by the error, he swallowed hard and moved on.
“I just figured we couldn’t get down on ourselves, we can’t get negative,” he said. “We’re all guilty of it sometimes.”
After five straight goals by Michael Power over the two periods — the Catholic school board plays two 20-minute halves — D’Agostini replied with one for McNeil by picking up a loose puck and deking out Trojans goalie Kyle Dobbin.
D’Agostini took the loss in stride.
“I think it could be a positive thing,” he said. “You need games like this to wake you up.
“It could really pay off in the future. In the final game we wouldn’t want to go into it like this.”
Fiorino noted the guys were mindful of their performance against Power.
“They’ve learned,” he said. “They feel bad enough at their performance because today was probably one of their worst games they’ve played.”
Game three of the series was played March 4 to a 4-0 score favouring the Trojans. The unfortunate loss of Max Naus to a broken wrist proved to be a morale killer.
Regardless of making the finals or being eliminated, Fiorino was confident the return of the senior Maroons has been educational.
“A game like today just teaches them that no matter how good you are, or think you are, you have to show up,” he said. “The higher up the mountain, the windier it gets.”