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The first crack at overtime’s opening faceoff in the CHSAA Class AAA championship game went Chaminade’s way.
Flyers freshman Quinn Ball and St. Anthony’s senior Jordan Naso got set to battle it out. As the official looked set to blow the whistle, Naso flinched, which momentarily gave Chaminade the ball to start the extra frame.
Until it didn’t. The referee essentially called for a redo, which gave the Friars another shot. They took full advantage of it, gaining possession six seconds in and allowing St. Anthony’s coach Keith Wieczorek to call timeout and gather his troops.
Jackson Greene had spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench, the byproduct of an injury he suffered in the third frame. Nevertheless, the Team 91 Long Island standout and NLF No. 72 junior wasn’t going to miss a chance to give the Friars a championship. He wasn’t the primary option on Wieczorek and offensive coordinator Doug Schreiber’s call, but when the ball swung around and found a wide-open Greene, the Harvard commit wasn’t going to waste his chance at greatness.
Greene stepped down and released a high rocket just before a closing defenseman could get to him. Ball game. St. Anthony’s 10, Chaminade 9, and a third straight championship for the Friars.
“Best Feeling In The World”
“It’s the best feeling in the world to come out here with my brothers, practice and go hard every day, and get the results,” Greene said. “We just stuck to our gameplan. Mike Leo went down the alley, drew the whole Chaminade defense. We got the ball to (Jack) Ponzio, who made the right look quickly and had me wide-open. That’s just Coach Schreiber’s motion. He does a great job with us. Everyone marks it on their calendar every year and it’s just the best feeling.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world to win this with your brothers,” echoed NLF No. 3 junior Owen Duffy (Team 91 Long Island / North Carolina), he of the three-goal, one-assist outing. “I’m so happy that our seniors got to win their last one.”
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The Friars completed a three-game season sweep of the Flyers, a rarity in such an evenly-matched rivalry. When St. Anthony’s won the opener, 19-10, in April, they knew that the next two wouldn’t happen so easily. Both were one-goal games, and this one was everything you could ask for in a championship game between two heated rivals.
It looked like the Friars might pull away in the third when Leo, Jack Speidell, Greene and Duffy tallied to counter Charles Balsamo’s fifth of the game. St. Anthony’s went into the final quarter up, 9-6, but Chaminade knotted it up when Gavin Creo snapped home a goal from just above GLE with a little north of six minutes to play. Neither team found the winner in regulation with Chaminade’s last-gasp attempt hitting the side of the net to set up overtime.
Charles Balsamo nearly derailed the Friars’ bid for a three-peat with his performance. The five-star senior was lights-out in the first half, bagging four of his game-high five goals.
It was Greene and St. Anthony’s, though, who walked away with the prize.
St. Anthony’s – Chaminade Standouts
Charles Balsamo ‘22, attack, Chaminade / Long Island Express / Duke – NLF No. 7 ’22
It’s rare that the best player on the field in a championship game is on the losing end of things, but Balsamo did everything he could to give the Flyers a chance to win it. The Duke-bound lefty had five goals for Chaminade, including four in the first half. He showed his versatility, too, scoring in a bunch of different ways. Balsamo burned the Friars with a lefty wing finish and righty inside roll early. However, his best play came when he got out to the wing, swept up top, shouldered a defenseman off of him and snapped a high-to-high rocket. Balsamo is an intriguing player for the next level because even though he doesn’t have ideal size, he’s extremely versatile with an incredibly-high IQ and knows how to attack defenses all over the field.
Kevin Barrett ‘22 (Team 91 Long Island / Boston University) and Will Snyder ’22 (Long Island Express / Fairfield), goalies, St. Anthony’s
The two split time a season ago with great results for the Friars. This year, it’s predominantly been Snyder’s show since Barrett broke his hand early on. The future Stag has been awesome, but it also great to see Barrett get to play one final time after being cleared the Friday before the game. The future Terrier got the start and was stout in the cage with a half-dozen saves, including a few eyebrow-raising stops where he denied what looked like sure goals. Snyder’s been a consistent presence all year and he finished that with eight stops en route to game MVP honors. Snyder, who will be a four-star in the final NLF ‘22 rankings, was excellent in the second half. He uses his wiry 6-5 frame to get to shots that other goalies can’t. Going back to a halves system didn’t faze him, either.
“I felt right at home,” Snyder said. “If I started the game, I was going to finish it. I finished the game even though I didn’t start, and it felt natural to me. It’s always hard to beat a team three times, especially Chaminade, when they know all of us. We just stuck to our gameplan and executed the way we wanted to.”
Owen Duffy ‘23, attack, St. Anthony’s / Team 91 Long Island / North Carolina – NLF No. 3 ’23
A walking highlight reel and a threat to put a defenseman on Instagram on every play, Duffy was outstanding in leading the Friars to their second-straight title with three goals and an assist. He’s so quick and slippery when dodging from X that he commands an early slide every time, but he can also make plays happen in tight. Duffy is really comfortable making plays at GLE and he showed that he didn’t need much room to make magic happen on his first goal when he snapped home a shot from a yard above GLE. Duffy also showed his terrific athleticism when he exploded past a double team while sweeping top side and hammered home a high rocket. He also had a gorgeous skip pass to the back pipe for a Jack Speidell tap-in that showcased Duffy’s vision. He’s has all the tools to be the Carolina quarterback once he gets to Chapel Hill.
“It’s never easy to beat a great team twice, let alone three times,” Duffy said. “Especially in this rivalry, this was just a great season for us.”
Colm Flynn ‘22, goalie, Chaminade / Long Island Express
Flynn came into his senior year with less fanfare than the average Chaminade goalie. It’s not surprising, considering that the Flyers perennially have a future Division I starter in the cage and Flynn was uncommitted, but man, did he put together a terrific season. A small righty, Flynn continually finds a way to come up with saves that he shouldn’t and rarely gives up a softie. He made a bunch of his 14 saves on low shots, routinely using his quick feet to get to the right spot and kick the rock away. Flynn, who’s headed to South Carolina this fall, was a consistent presence for the Flyers throughout.
Ben Fox ‘24, defense, Chaminade / Team 91 Long Island – NLF No. 17 ’24
I don’t mean to write the same player up three times in one high school season, but Fox’s maturation and growth as a player have been nothing short of amazing to watch. He came into the season as a very good defenseman for a ’24. He left it as one of the best defensemen on Long Island, regardless of class. His footwork and ability to play through traffic is impeccable. At 6-2, 180 or so pounds, Fox looks like what a No. 1 defenseman should look like. He dominated his matchup throughout the day and was easily Chaminade’s best defensive player throughout the year as a sophomore. There’s nothing flashy to his game, but Fox frustrates offensive players with how he doesn’t yield any positioning and just stays between them and the cage. With through-the-roof grades at an academic powerhouse, too, Fox will have the ability to be highly-recruited by everyone.
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Jack Speidell ’23, attack, St. Anthony’s / Team 91 Long Island / Harvard – NLF No. 40 ’23
Speidell is the type of attackman that fits into multiple spots in any system. For St. Anthony’s, he works around Owen Duffy and Michael Leo (Team 91 Long Island / Syracuse) as a deadly off-ball guy. He’s shown at other times that he can handle the rock, too, but it was his goal-scoring that was on display against the Flyers. He had an excellent sneak to the back pipe for a tap-in off of a Duffy assist. Speidell also had a filthy jumper where he snapped an almost no-look shot short-side as part of a three-goal, one-assist day. Scoring goals never goes out of style, so Speidell will always have a job, no matter where he slots in.