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HOCKEY: Shrine stays perfect with blowout win over Monroe United

BERKLEY – The Royal Oak Shrine Catholic Knights remained unbeaten with a 9-1 boys hockey victory over Monroe United in the opening round of the Berkley Invitational Hockey Tournament Thursday evening.

The key for Shrine was a dominating special teams performance that saw them capitalize on virtually every power play opportunity. All in all, the Knights were 4 for 5 on the power play and 4 for 4 on the penalty kill while also picking up a short handed goal.

“That definitely helps,” Knights coach AJ Plaskey said of his team’s outstanding special teams, “I was a little worried about coming back from the break and not being sharp, but obviously we were a little sharper than I expected, so it was good.”

It was no surprise therefore, that the game’s key goal came on the power play for Royal Oak Shrine. Monroe had just cut the lead to 3-1 on Skylar Riffle’s point blast that took a deflection in front, and looked like they might be able to get out of the period down only two despite being badly outshot.

"The momentum could have really switched into their favor, but we came right back and scored and took control of the momentum again,” Plaskey said.

It didn’t take long. Just 21 seconds after Riffle’s goal, Monroe United took a penalty, and the Knights instantly capitalitzed when captain Joe Nagle scored from a bad angle to restore Shrine’s three goal advantage, stealing the momentum back, which they would carry into the second period and stretch the lead early with another power play goal less than three minutes after the intermission.

At five on five, the game was more even, especially in the second period, as a scrappy Monroe team fought hard all night, and goaltender Cameron Kozbial made twenty-eight saves to help Monroe United hang around. But even then, Shrine’s superior depth and puck possession were able to win out over the long haul.

“I think our depth helped a lot today. We’re able to run three lines normally, and we were able to run our fourth line and got the younger guys some ice time,” Plaskey said. “We have twenty-one kids on the bench today, and we played all twenty-one of them.”

Joe Nagle and Chris Bradley led a balanced attack for Royal Oak Shrine Catholic with Nagle up three goals and assist while Bradley tallied two goals and two assists. Troy Brutton chipped in three assists as eleven different players registered at least a point for the Knights. At the defensive end, Tripp Callanan led a solid effort from the Shrine defenders who did a good job of policing the crease in front of goaltenders Steve Erwin and Hugo Strange.

Despite the loss, Monroe United coach Dave LaMontaine was pleased with his team’s fight as his young team that features only two seniors tries to find itself. “We’re a young team struggling to find our identiy,” LaMontaine said. “Our boys are stuggling but they’re not giving up. Most of these guys continue to play hard, play well. We’re learning and we’ll get better as the season progresses,” he said.

With the win, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic improves to 10-0 on the season. The Knights will take on the Bloomfield United Chargers in the semifinals Friday. Monroe moves to the consolation bracket and will take on Marysville tomorrow.

Last Updated: 1/5/2013 3:27:23 AM EST

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