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ST. JOE’S wins Monsignor Martin Title

Photos by Andrew Miller

J. Richard Crozier has been coaching the hockey team at St. Joe’s for 15 years, and he’s won six state championships along the way. But he’s never seen a squad quite like the resilient bunch of kids on this year’s team.

They seem to thrive on adversity. The Marauders started 2-6 this season and Crozier admits it was a struggle at times. But it’s often the tough times that forge a team’s competitive character, and a daunting non-league schedule prepared St. Joe’s for the challenges to come.

So, when they trailed Bishop Timon, 2-1, after two periods of the Monsignor Martin title game Friday afternoon at KeyBank Center, Crozier figured their best was yet to come.

He told his boys between periods that the pressure was on the Tigers, who were trying to win an MMA title for the first time in 22 years. If they could jump on the Tigers in the third, they could create doubt and unease on the opposing bench.

“I told the boys, ‘If you want to be a champion you got to have a really strong period’,” Crozier recalled. “We were good in the first and second period. We weren’t bad. But boy, we were lights out in the third.”

They sure were. The Marauders swarmed the Tigers early in the third. Finally, midway through the period, Luke Deakin tucked the rebound of a Jackson Deakin slap shot past Timon goalie David Crampton to tie it, 2-2.

Just 90 seconds later, Patrick Ohle broke in alone on Crampton, made a nifty deke and flipped a backhand over Crampton to give St. Joe’s its first lead of the day, 3-2. The Marauders held on for the Monsignor Martin title, their eighth under Crozier.

“I blinked and the puck was in the net,” Ohle said.

Timon pressed over the final six minutes, getting a couple of prime opportunities on a power play, but the Marauders and goalie Quincy Unger were equal to the task. Unger made a sprawling save on Shane Smith and made a couple other fairly routine stops as St. Joe’s killed off the penalty.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that our team is the most resilient in the whole of New York State,” said Unger. “We have kids that are willing to go to the grindstone even when we’re down. Today was a great example of that.” Unger had a trying moment, allowing Timon’s second goal (by Josh Siler) after he covered up a loose puck and the official didn’t whistle the play dead. He said he was upset, but goalies need to keep their emotions in check. He did just that.

“For us to bounce back and score two in the third and then lock it down, that shows our resilience,” said Unger, who earned the Miguel Rodriguez award for the game’s top goalie. “Sure, you could say it’s a tough schedule, but I think it’s more the players in the room.”

Crozier said the kids’ confidence is at an all-time high. St. Joe’s is 14-10-1, a record that belies their talent and resilience and the bumpy road they traveled to reach this point. This is their eighth league title under Crozier, but the first since 2020, when the pandemic shut down the state tournament,

“So we’ve been through a lot,” said Crozier, the son of former Sabres head coach Joe Crozier. "And it is a great feeling to be here. People think it’s easy when you go to St. Joe’s. They think you put the jersey on and we just win championships."

“Let me tell you, people couldn’t be more wrong about that. This group worked incredibly hard. This coaching staff has worked incredibly hard, and that’s what wins championships, effort and attitude, and I’m really proud.

“Anyone who wants to play us we’ve played, and everyone we’ve played, the games are like one or two goals," Crozier added. "There’s no team in the state I believe we can’t compete with.”

They’ll have one more chance to prove it. Do that, and they win a state title.

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