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Yacovone lifts Cross to CHSHL ‘B’ title

Last week, at Abe Stark Rink in Coney Island, Anthony Yacovone was asked if it could get any better than scoring a hat trick in the decisive third game of the CHSHL Class B semifinal series against archrival St. Francis Prep.

“Yes,” was his response, “if it happened in the championship game.”

That’s just what happened Friday night. Back at Abe Stark, the junior forward scored three goals, including the dramatic winner 41 seconds into overtime, to lift Holy Cross to a come-from-behind 5-4 win against Xavier.

Holy Cross, which rallied from a 4-1 deficit heading into the third period, swept the best-of-three championship series to win the ‘B’ title for the first time since 2004-05.

The Knights also captured the ‘C’ title last year.

It was especially gratifying for Holy Cross Coach Kevin Goodspeed, a former player at the Queens all-boys school. Goodspeed is still mourning the loss of Mike Mitchell, a former Holy Cross coach and CHSHL commissioner who died Feb. 28, a few hours before the first Battle of the Boulevard playoff series.

“It’s the best. I won the ‘C’ division last year and I lost the ‘B’ division my senior year. It meant the world to me,” Goodspeed said. “The first thing we did was get together and thank Mike. He was looking down upon us, no doubt about it. He would have loved to see this game.”

Mitchell was very much on the minds of the Holy Cross team after the game. The players met in the locker room and quietly prayed before the jubilant celebration was on.

“It was great, especially for Mitchell,” Holy Cross captain John Pagano said. “I’m sure he would have loved it.”

Pagano sent the game into overtime by scoring the game’s lone power play goal, stuffing in a rebound with 2:22 left in the third period.

But the victory was a foregone conclusion at that point, especially after Holy Cross came out of the locker room and scored 31 seconds into the third. It was the pivotal goal of the game, according to Goodspeed.

“I told the kids coming out of the locker room, next goal wins this game,” Goodspeed said. “If they would have went up 5-1 it would have been tough to come back.”

That goal, like the overtime winner, was scored by Yacovone, who also had four goals and three assists in an 8-5 win in Game 1 on Monday.

“I can’t even explain it,” Yacovone said. “I was thrilled that we came back from 4-1 and won in overtime.”

Yacovone was so caught up in the post-game merriment, he almost didn’t notice blood streaming from his pinky finger. Consider it a casualty of a wild on and off ice celebration. It stemmed from his open wrist shot from the slot after Xavier goaltender Devon Lopez saved Pagano’s initial attempt.

Joseph Gilhooly scored twice in the opening 5:41 as Xavier (11-8-0) took an early 3-1 lead. After Kyle London scored on a rebound at 7:36 of the first, Domenick Brennan’s second goal of the game with 42 seconds left in the second gave Xavier a commanding 4-1 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of regulation.

But Holy Cross (16-2-2) rallied from a 2-1 deficit in Game 2 of the semifinal series against St. Francis Prep and was confident it could come back again.

“You can’t rattle this team up,” Goodspeed said. “They’re just a loose team. They can be down five goals and they still joke around on the bench, they talk about baseball.”

Yacovone scored his second goal 4:34 into the third, backup goaltender Anthony Sibilio settled down after giving up three rebound goals in the first period and Pagano scored the late tying goal. It was all a prelude to yet another dramatic goal from Holy Cross’ Mr. March.

“It was like slow motion,” Pagano said of Yacovone’s overtime winner. “It was great. I knew if he had room, he’d put it in because he’s a good player.”

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