A season ago, Red Bank Catholic netminder Ciaran McNelis sulked off the ice at the Jersey Shore Arena as his Caseys saw their season come to a close with a lopsided 8-1 defeat at the hands of Wall Township in the opening round of the Shore Conference Dowd Cup Tournament.
Competitors never forget, a point proven by McNelis nearly a year later, when he and his Red Bank Catholic outfit welcomed the Knights to the Armory in Week 6 for an anticipated Class A North clash that concluded in a 2-2 stalemate.
It was an outcome due much in part to the performance of the senior keeper, who steered aside 50 shots in the tie, the second largest save total and workload of his scholastic career.
“We were thinking about that loss a lot heading into Wednesday night, and I know personally, it was driving me,” McNelis said. “We were talking about losing to them in the playoffs last year, and how much it hurt. Coach Zdeb brought it up again before we took the ice…It was about revenge.”
With one of the fiercest offensive units in the state buzzing in front of him, McNelis stood tall in his crease, blanking the Knights in the opening period, before allowing two tallies in the middle frame.
However, the third period is where the senior shined, stopping all 17 Wall Township attempts to preserve the 2-2 tie and keep his Caseys playoff hopes in line.
“It really was a huge result for us,” said McNelis, who registered a single-game career hight 51 saves last year in a divisional tilt with CBA. “Aside from stinging Wall a little bit after last season, we need to perform like this against good teams if we want to make a playoff push. Results like this show that we deserve to be there, and it I think it shows our guys that we can skate with the best teams around.”
McNelis opened the week with a 13-save shutout of crosstown rival Red Bank Regional, and carried his impressive play against Wall Township into a another divisional tilt with Rumson-Fair Haven, a meeting in which he stopped all 47 shots faced to help Red Bank Catholic to a 2-0 victory over the Bulldogs.