St. Mary Prevails 6-3 in Faceoff Against Newman

Late Goals Seal the Deal - St. Mary Prevails 6-3 in Faceoff Against Newman
Posted on 12/12/2023
Faceoff puck drop

By Larry Moko

Owen Meli scored a hat trick including the winner to lead St. Mary to its first victory of the boys’ high school hockey season.

The Crusaders (1-1) defeated the St. John Henry Newman Cardinals 6-3 at Morgan Firestone Arena Thursday.

For the Cardinals, it was their debut appearance of 2023-24.

“That’s my first hatty in varsity hockey,” Meli said. “I had a couple in junior (Grade 9 and 10 high school competition).”

St. Mary built a 3-0 advantage in the contest but had to fight off a determined comeback effort that saw Newman tie the score midway through the third period.

That’s when Grade 11 student Meli struck for the deciding marker.

“It was a dirty goal,” said Meli, who cashed in after a wrap-around attempt by linemate Sam Johnston. “I backhanded it in.”

Johnston and Meli were chosen by the Guelph Storm and Owen Sound Attack, respectively, in this year’s OHL priority selections. They currently play for the U18 Burlington AAA Eagles.

The Crusaders then added a pair of empty-net insurance goals – first by Meli (with one minute, 23 seconds remaining) and then by James Bottineau (with 48 seconds left).

“My third goal was big,” Meli said. “It sealed the deal.”

Newman’s goals – by Will Walihura, Nolan Methot and Ryan McLean -- all came during a third-period flurry. Dom Fidanza assisted on all three.
“It was a great game overall,” Crusaders coach Jason Kokoski said. “There was a lot of emotion and intensity. Both sides were into it.”

After Owen Bezan accounted for the lone goal of the opening period, St. Mary used back-to-back power-play opportunities to score two more. Meli and Johnston each found the net while the Crusaders enjoyed a two-man advantage for four minutes.

“That second period just killed us,” Newman coach Matt Pritchard said. “Too many penalties. It ended up costing us the game.
“I thought in the first period we were all over them. And in the third we did the same thing. We were really taking it to them when we came back from a 3-0 deficit.”

Pritchard said Cardinals captain Macauley Wellstead was the best player on the ice for either team but couldn’t get any “puck luck.”

Said Kokoski: “Newman definitely brought the pressure in the third period. Our guys kind of hung in there, though, and got the lead again.”

The veteran St. Mary coach said this year’s Crusaders feature impressive speed and skill up front. And he says the lineup includes a good blend of youth and experience.

As for Newman, Pritchard said: “We’ve got a lot of young guys. It’s probably the youngest team we’ve had in a while. These guys are going to be with us for the next couple of years, so, hopefully, this is the start of something special here.”

In the girls’ half of the doubleheader, Newman edged St. Mary, 2-1.

In other boys’ hockey games, the defending champion Bishop Ryan Celtics and the St. Thomas More Knights skated to a 2-2 tie.


Photos by Richard Andoga

More photos on the HWCDSB Athletics Facebook page.