By: John Nee '93
It has been an up and down season for Head Coach Brian Coleman and his hockey club, but the playoffs provide new life for every team that qualifies. After earning the fifth-seed in the 2018 Kennedy Cup Playoffs, the Mustangs battled the fourth-seeded Carmel Catholic Corsairs over the weekend at Southwest Ice Arena with games 1 and 2 taking place Friday and Saturday evenings.
With a great student section on hand, the "Skating" Mustangs swept away Carmel by scores of 3-1 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday to advance to the second round of the Kennedy Cup Playoffs against top-seeded St. Ignatius.
On Friday, St. Rita trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period, but second period goals by sophomore Jimmy Larkin (assisted by seniors Collin Zarlengo and Nick Wright) and senior Frank Napleton (assisted by Wright) gave the Mustangs a 2-1 lead heading into the third.
Stellar play in goal by junior Kyle Gustafson (20 saves) made that lead stand as the senior Napleton added an empty-netter late to send the Mustang Maniacs home happy knowing the series clincher was on the horizon Saturday night.
On Saturday, St. Rita carried the momentum from Friday night's win by scoring early with senior Andrew Dicksen finding the back of the net at 4:56 of the first period to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead. Dicksen's goal was assisted by freshman Danny Dargan and sophomore Griffen Drebing.
After a Carmel goal early in the third cut St. Rita's lead to 2-1, the senior Napleton continued his hot streak scoring on an assist from senior captain Nick Pyznarski. The Mustangs then put the game and series on ice as the younger Napleton added his second point of the night by scoring with assists from junior Danny Glynn and Capuano to give St. Rita a commanding 4-1 lead and a series victory.
Gustafson was once again solid between the pipes stopping 25 of Carmel's 26 shots on the night.
The Mustangs now advance to play top-seeded St. Ignatius in the semifinals of the Kennedy Cup Playoffs with game 1 taking place Sunday 1:40pm at Blackhawk Rink next to the United Center. St. Rita will return home for game 2 of the series on Thursday February 8th 7:50pm at Southwest Ice Arena.