NEW YORK -- As unnatural a statement it might be, in the elements, it can be said that hockey teams are sometimes out of their element.
Although weather didn’t come into play in Catholic Memorial’s duel with New Jersey powerhouse Delbarton School, Saturday at Yankee Stadium, the characteristics of outdoor ice sheets are such that no team can play as they would in the controlled environment of the rink.
Take the case of the Green Wave, for instance.
“It’s our first outdoor game, so the learning process goes on throughout the game,” Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel said of the game, which was played as part of the NHL’s Stadium Series. “We are traditionally an East-West team, but tonight it needed to be North-South. We were trying to stretch them out and back them off.”
While skating up and down the length of the sheet for periods, neither team was able to find the back of the net. But when the Green Wave adopted a more conservative dump-and-chase attack in the third period and broke through the Knights’ dogged forecheck, the goals came in bowls.
Delbarton skated away with a 3-0 win on the heels of a 20-save shutout from freshman goaltender Troy Kobryn.
“They played uncharacteristic of how they can play,” CM head coach Bill Hanson said of Delbarton. “We’re not as skilled as they are. We can certainly go up and down the ice and battle with them, as we did for two periods.
“It wasn’t pretty for either team, but we went into the third period for the ninth time this year with a chance to get a win.”
For the Knights (9-2-2), who have been strong in third periods of late, Saturday was a bit of an aberration.
They outshot Delbarton by an 11-4 margin in the second period, to gain a 16-11 advantage through 30 minutes before meeting the Green Wave’s onslaught in the third. That’s when Delbarton returned the favor, peppering CM netminder Brandon Collett (18 saves) with an 11-shot barrage.
“We grind it and we find a way to get to the third period,” Hanson said. “We’ve won three out of our last four games in the third period, and another in overtime, that’s pretty darned good.”
He added, “Both teams are better than what they showed out there tonight, It was tough playing.”
After two free-flowing and penalty-free periods, Delbarton broke the stalemate at 4:16 of the third. Tyler Kobryn banked one home with assists from defenseman Michael Gilfillan and Chad Otterman. Gilfillan had a hand in the Green Wave’s second tally as well as Harrison Newman redirected his point shot in front of Collett for a 2-0 lead at 9:55.
Will McCarthy rounded out scoring with 2:42 to play with an assist from Sean McLaughlin.
All three Green Wave goals were the result of a strong net-front presence – setting screens in front of the cage, getting sticks on pucks and working hard below the face-off dots.
“We didn’t have any of that in the first or the second,” Shatel said. “It’s great that our kids rose to the occasion on the big stage and made some plays. Obviously, to win a game on this stage against an unbelievable opponent like Catholic Memorial is something that we’ll remember forever.”
Toeing the rubber: While Delbarton controlled the pace of play in the third, it was in the second that the Green Wave’s first-year goaltender earned his stripes.
With the Knights buzzing in the offensive zone, Troy Kobryn was a factor.
What’s perhaps even more remarkable was the young goaltender’s cool demeanor. Kobryn, a 1999 birthdate, is just 14 years old and looked mature beyond his years in one of professional sports most iconic settings.
“He’s got composure beyond his years,” Shatel said. “He’s a very talented kid who’s got a very bright future in this game. I think he’s 14 years old, and to be playing at Yankee Stadium and pitch a shutout, that’s pretty impressive.”
Next up: For all the pomp and circumstance that a chance to skate at the Yankees’ home brought, it is the Knights’ next game that almost certainly will have greater bearing on their postseason hopes and beyond.
A date with archrival No. 1 BC High at Boston College’s Conte Forum looms Monday (4 p.m.), so Saturday’s disappointment will quickly give way to a more pressing task.
“If we would have stayed home, we would have practiced against each other,” Hanson said, “but this was real good preparation for us. We got some pucks in close, but we weren’t opportunistic on the chances that we did have.”