STOCKHOLM — The pressure is on for Gill St. Bernard’s.
For a team with hopes of qualifying for the Haas Cup, Saturday night’s match-up against Vernon presented an opportunity for the Knights to take on one of the teams that it is chasing for a top-four spot in the Haas Division. Losing its first two divisional games put the team behind the eight-ball, as the teams it is chasing all have played at least three-to-four more games.
“We have goals in mind that we’re really looking to close in on here, and for us to do that we don’t have a lot of opportunities for ties and losses anymore,” Gill St. Bernard’s co-coach Greg DaSilva said. “We’ve got to be winning games. It’s kind of that mentality that every game is a playoff right now.”
With that small margin for error, Gill St. Bernard’s took the first step on Saturday, as twins Christian and Logan Mote put together big performances in Gill St. Bernard’s 5-2 win over Vernon at Skylands Ice World.
Christian Mote tallied four points with a goal and three assists, while Logan scored twice in the third period to help seal the victory.
“It’s so far the biggest win of the season that we’ve gotten,” Christian Mote said. “We’re 0-2, this was the biggest game coming in if we want to make the playoffs. We knew what we had to do, we had to focus up, and we got the job done tonight, it was a huge win.”
Christian got the scoring started on a shorthanded partial breakaway with 4:23 to go in the first. It took only 16 seconds for Vernon to respond, as Lucas Brennan tied it up on the next rush.
Before the end of the period, Christian set up Michael Scarpati for another shorthanded goal on a 2-on-1, making it a 2-1 game. Vernon tied it up once again early in the second on Evan Steinbach’s goal, but Bradley Matthews’ shot from the blue line found the back of the net just 1:02 later to give Gill St. Bernard’s the lead, which it did not relinquish.
The third period saw Logan add to the lead with 7:32 left off an assist from his brother, before that same duo struck again with Logan burying an empty-netter with 37 seconds left to seal it.
While putting five goals in the back of the net is always a good recipe for success, even more impressive was Gill St. Bernard’s defense. It prevented a Vernon team- which was playing in its first game in over three weeks- from truly getting going offensively. Goalie Alex Steinberg stopped 25 of 27 shots, and the team was able to keep one of the most dynamic scorers in the area in Dylan Shea completely off the scoresheet.
“We matched them offensively for sure,” Logan Mote said. “Alex Steinberg, I think he’s maybe the best goaltender in the state. He’s a great guy, great goaltender, and I think he made some key saves for us. Our defensemen all stayed home defensively, we were all holding our spots, I thought, and didn’t allow any entries”
DaSilva added, “We did a decent job of getting into our structure. When we do that, I felt like they were trying to stretch the ice on us quite a bit. We were able to create turnovers with them a little stretched. In other words, we had a lot of space when turnovers were created. I thought we could have a much better job of that, but we did a good enough job to win the game. In the end, there’s not that much separating us. I think our two teams are very similar in setup from top to bottom. I thought our forecheck was pretty good. But I’d say creating turnovers we did a pretty good job of.”
It was the type of performance that the Knights had expected from themselves, but unfortunately the team hasn’t been able to gain much traction thus far. It had played just five total games going into tonight’s game, with the team being shut down for COVID issues early in the season, as the team did not even play its season-opener until Dec. 16- almost a full three weeks after the official opening day across the state.
Now, with a fully healthy roster, the Knights are hoping to reach their full potential. It lost, 3-1 to West Morris in its Haas opener on Dec. 16, before dropping a tough 6-4 loss to Park Regional last Saturday. It finds itself four points behind Vernon and West Morris for the fourth spot in the Haas, but still has seven more divisional games to play, meaning the opportunity to qualify is there if it can get on a winning run.
“I think it’s something we expected. It’s a big win for us,” Christian Mote said. “The first Haas game that we played was our first game, and we played West Morris, they had already played four or five games and we were coming off COVID issues. I think this was expected. It was a little overdue, but the other two games we couldn’t do much about. This was the first game we were back, we were healthy, and we had our legs under us, and I think we expected to be able to come here and do what we did tonight.”
Saturday’s game provided the blueprint on how the team needs to play going forward, if it is going to qualify for the Haas Cup. If and when it gets there, it has its eyes on getting to the final, like it did two seasons ago when it dropped a heartbreaker to Mountain Lakes-Boonton.
The Mote twins, who were sophomores at the time, are seniors now, and are looking to finish off what was started that season.
“We expect to compete the rest of the way, for sure,” Logan Mote said. “I think our sophomore year, we had a great team, we lost to Mountain Lakes in the finals and we were up 2-0 very late in the first period. We didn’t get the job done that we wanted to there. I think this time, we’ve learned from the mistakes, and we’re going to try to capitalize on the opportunities we’ve had. Right now we have to keep this up, play with the same energy and same physicality, and come out flying in the next couple of games.”
MORE POST-GAME REACTION
“Any team wants to win the Haas Cup. We’re hoping to get back there. That’s our number one goal. We have no individual awards here, we’re just trying to get back to the finals. That’s any team’s goal, but that’s our goal more than anything. Just win as many games as we can down the line. With the goalie we have, with the forwards and defense we have, I think we can do it.”– Gill St. Bernard’s senior forward Christian Mote
“We have such a short bench, as we do many years. What we were really speaking about with our structure is we try to play a game where we’re playing smarter and not harder. If we try to run and gun and run around with a team like this, we’re not going to last three periods. To that comment specifically, that’s just more the way our team is built. We have a short bench, so we have to be disciplined with our forecheck and picking and choosing where we attack. If we do that, then we’re going to be winning a lot of games, and the rest takes care of itself.”– Gill St. Bernard’s co-coach Greg DaSilva
First star: Christian Mote, Gill St. Bernards, F, Sr.- 1 goal, 3 assists
Second star: Logan Mote, Gill St. Bernard’s, F, Sr.- 2 goals
Third star: Alex Steinberg, Gill St. Bernard’s, G, Sr.- 27 saves
GSB– Christian Mote 4:23 SHG
VER– Lucas Brennan 4:07 PPG
GSB– Michael Scarpati (Christian Mote) 13:59 SHG
VER– Evan Steinbach (Robert Bubenik) 10:48
GSB– Bradley Matthews (Porter Clark) 9:50
GSB– Logan Mote (Chrsitian Mote, Henry Smith) 7:32
GSB– Logan Mote (Christian Mote, Porter Clark) 0:37 ENG
Shots on goal: Vernon 27, Gill St. Bernard’s 22
Saves: Alex Steinberg (Gill St. Bernard’s) 25, Max Badu (Vernon) 17
Team records: Gill St. Bernard’s 3-2-1 (1-2 Haas), Vernon 6-4 (3-3 Haas)
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