MIDDLETOWN — Wednesday evening’s meeting between St. John Vianney and CBA was less a heated divisional matchup and more a street fight between Shore Conference titans, who took their battle for local parochial supremacy into the elements at the Navesink Country Club’s outdoor ice sheet.
Those in search of further evidence that a turf war had in fact played out on this secluded hilltop setting — an icy Navesink River glistening in the background, separating Middletown from the hustle and buzz of Red Bank — could look no further than the bruised, battered and bloodied face of St. John Vianney standout John Gelatt, who, despite the damage, willed his Lancers (9-1-1, 4-1-1) to a 5-2 victory over the Colts (6-5-1, 3-1-0) , handing CBA it’s first loss to a local opponent since Jan. 17, 2014 (when Frankie Gerbasi scored a third period power play goal to make a 37-save performance by Bobby Dovenero standup in a 2-1 Rebels triumph).
In the opening period with the game knotted at 1-1 — following a Gio Crepaldi tally that came just 13 seconds in, and Gelatt’s first of three goals on the night, that came at the 7:55 mark — the junior centerman raced back deep into his own zone to chase down a loose puck below the goal line. While attempting to peel off the boards and turn up ice, Gelatt took a hit from behind that angled his face into the boards, leaving his right cheek bruised and bleeding, and his top lip left split and leaking.
“I thought he took a little bit of a dirty hit behind the play, but that’s neither here nor there,” Lancers coach Mick Messemer said of Gelatt. “But I went into the locker room after the first [period] and told the guys, they needed to stick up for their teammate. And not only did they do that, but he stuck up for himself. Not by doing anything foolish, but bu doing it on the scoreboard…He’s a tough kid and I’m very proud of him.”
After Colts captain Liam Noonan closed out the opening frame by jamming home a power play tally past Lancers keeper Jeremy Connor – who was stellar, steering aside 20 of 22 shots faced – Gelatt tied the game at 2-2 with a short-handed marker at 6:21 of the second, when broke up a zone entry attempt at his own blue line with a well-placed poke check, beat the opposing defender to the puck and moved in all alone on CBA netminder Brendan Behan — who made 13 saves — before sliding it past the keeper for his 14th goal of the season.
The stalemate remained intact until Gelatt and and Jake LaRusso — who had three helpers in the victory — facilitated a power play tally by Brett Schneider with 34 seconds remaining in the second period, a goal that propelled the Lancers into the third with momentum, and went in the books as the eventual game-winner.
“That was huge game-changing moment in this one, and I’m very proud of myself and of my teammates for the way we played and competed tonight,” Schneider said. “We played these guys last year and it was a really close game. They got is in the third period. But this game was huge for us. We knew what as at stake. Again, it was big goal by myself to send us into the third with a lead, and huge goals by Gelatt and [Kevyn] Rigatti to to finish it off. I’m really proud of our team.”
Gelatt closed out his big night with a bandage on his cheek, gauze and tape holding his lip in place, and a hot stick in hand that refused to quit producing, as he was sprung into the offensive zone with a lofting saucer pass over the blue line and onto the centerman’s tape by linemate John Gutt, which led to the hat trick tally and his team-leading 15th of the season.
“That hit was on my mind the rest of the game, but I knew that I needed to settle down, keep my head, and play a controlled and simple game. I knew that if I did that I’d be able to have a decent game at least,” said Gelatt in the post-game interview, his modesty coming through an amalgamation of smeared eye-black and dried blood. “The goals in the second and the third were really big momentum swings for us. That’s when we took control, and that’s what got us a big win tonight.”
The victory was St. John Vianney’s first over CBA since the 2007-08 season.