MOUNT PROSPECT -- York senior goaltender Ben Foley didn’t just skate resolutely to his spot between the pipes before the start of a Scholastic Hockey League playoff game Wednesday night.
He also nodded with each stride.
The Duke oozed confidence, as he and his mates — down 1-0 in their best-of-three, first-round series with St. Viator’s Lions — hit the Center Rink sheet before a pulsating crowd at Mount Prospect Ice Arena.
“It’s a part of my routine,” Foley said after his marvelous 35-save effort in York’s 3-1 triumph, which set up a Game 3 Friday (7:20 p.m.) at Addison Ice Arena. “It’s what I do to get into a zone … into my game-mode.”
Foley stayed in that state of mind until the final horn. All he had to worry about afterward was the health of his right arm — York’s ecstatic student fans bear-slapped the limb (Foley had extended it for them) at least a dozen times as he headed to his club’s locker room.
“Ben has a nice system going,” York coach Matt Boeing said of his netminder’s nods and other pre-game customs. “Team guy. Guys rally around him, and that’s what they did tonight in an electric atmosphere.
“Ben stood tall for us.”
Foley picked quite a fine night to stand Willis Tower tall. York, seeded fourth, had defeated fifth-seeded St. Viator three times in the regular season by a goal differential of 16-7, before falling 2-0 to Viator in Monday’s series opener. And Lions coach Tim Benz’s crew flew around relentlessly in the first half of the first period Wednesday night, determined to bury the higher seed in two games.
Viator senior assistant captain Patrick Neary blasted a shot on goal in the first minute; forward Sean Nutley tested Foley nearly a minute later; and Neary and forward Reiden Mueller peppered shots at Foley at 2:09 and 4:25, respectively.
“St. Viator buzzed around,” Boeing said. “That’s a great team.”
But York (19-10) got on the board first, shortly after the start of a power play at 7:22 of the first period. Senior forward Robert Plummer slid a pass to junior forward Frank Nicosia, who fed a slick helper to senior forward Lee, a potent mixture of speed, power and savvy.
Lee, planted at the doorstep, shoved the puck past Lions goalie Dom Grimaldi, who had stopped 24 shots in the Valentine’s Day shutout. York dubs that power-play play “The Metzy” — named after York assistant coach and alumnus Scott Metz.
Forward Michael Iorii put York up 2-0 with an unassisted goal less than a minute later.
“That first goal, we needed it, needed it badly, because it meant we wouldn’t have to chase like we did all game (in Game 1 of the SHL series),” Lee said. “It changed everything for us.”
York senior defenseman Zachary Despinich expanded the visitors’ advantage to 3-0 on a nifty left-handed wrist shot at 5:26 of the middle period. The shot hissed past the right shoulder of Grimaldi (14 saves). Forward Shane Gorski provided the assist.
St. Viator (15-14) finally solved Foley at 15:15 of the second period, getting a shorthanded goal off the stick of defenseman Sean Wilson; 26 ticks remained in York’s power play. The assist came from forward Tommy O’Neill.
Lions backup goaltender Michael Massaro (six saves in the third period, some of the spectacular variety) played the final 11:34 of the second period and all 17 minutes of the third.
“We lost the puck battle and had too many turnovers in the neutral zone,” Neary admitted. “Friday night we have to win the blue line and crash the net.
“It should be a quite an atmosphere at their rink,” he added.
The key to Friday’s clincher, in Boeing’s mind?
“It’ll come down to work ethic,” the coach said.
Ice chips: York’s home rink isn’t Addison Ice Arena to Dukes’ players. “It’s ‘Addison Square Garden,’ ” Lee and Foley, both smiling, noted almost simultaneously after Wednesday’s win. … St. Viator’s Neary is thinking about pursuing a degree in sports management. Neary, on his roles in the 2021-22 season: “Be a playmaker, grind in corners.” … York’s Foley, on teammate Lee: “Great leader. He has been that kind of teammate since we started playing hockey together more than 10 years ago.” … Lee, on Foley: “Quick, knows the game, and he uses his mouth (voice) to help us from his spot in goal.” Foley’s favorite order to his mates? “I can’t see,” Foley cracked. … Dukes coach Boeing, a Fenton graduate, estimated York junior forward Charles Colantonio blocked six shots Wednesday night. … Foley recorded 27 of his 35 saves in the first two periods. … Viator “won” the penalty derby 9-7; the clubs combined for seven no-no’s in the second period. … Similar shot totals, difference result: Viator outshot York 36-23 Wednesday night in a Lions loss, two days after Viator outshot York 35-24 in its Game 1 victory.