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Grimaldi, Saint Viator end drought vs. Loyola

By Gary Larsen, 12/05/22, 10:30AM CST


12/03/22: SV 3, LAG 0

Early on this season, Saint Viator coach Tim Benz preached patience for a senior-heavy, talented team that placed second in Illinois last season. After all, while the Lions only scored eight goals through a 1-4 start in SHL play this year, they did post a 188-116 edge in shots on net.

The problem with that shooting edge?

“It was quantity over quality,” Saint Viator assistant coach Chris Benz said. “We’ve been outshooting teams and not necessarily outscoring teams, but lately we’ve been maximizing those opportunities.”

The Lions may have turned a corner. In their last five games, they’ve gone 4-1 and scored 20 goals, again outshooting SHL opponents 169-143 during that span.

In its 3-0 win at Loyola on Saturday, Saint Viator won despite being outshot 29-27 by Loyola, so quality may be overtaking quantity in Saint Viator’s attacking zone.

“We’ve really been working in practice on the quality of our shots,” captain Dylan Harer said. “Earlier in the year a lot of our shots were coming from the outside, so we’ve been working on getting those back-door opportunities, those dirtier goals, and really finishing. We just have to bear down and put the puck in the net.”

Harer, Aidan O’Neill, and Vitalii Strutynski each scored for Saint Viator (9-6 in SHL play plus 2 OT losses) while Lions goaltender Dom Grimaldi locked the door on Loyola (7-4 plus 4 OT losses) for 51 minutes.

Saint Viator came out flying on Loyola’s home ice, earning a 10-7 edge in first-period shots. Loyola started slow but goalie Bradin Haynie kept Saint Viator out of net in a scoreless first period.

“We definitely didn’t come out in the first period the way we needed to,” Loyola assistant coach Dustin Lockwood said. “Beyond that, I thought we started to take it to them a little bit in the second period but just couldn’t find the back of the net.”

The game’s first goal came with 9:47 remaining in the second period and ultimately stood up as the game-winner. Haynie turned O’Neill away on a prime scoring chance in the slot, the puck was sent back to O’Neill by Ross Davis at nearly the same spot of O’Neill’s initial shot.

O’Neill buried his second bite at the apple to give Saint Viator a 1-0 lead and Benz was relieved to see it happen.

“We played well to start the game, matched their intensity, and just didn’t finish our opportunities,” Benz said. “We had a couple A-plus opportunities that we squandered. But other than that, getting that first goal was big.”

Loyola wasn’t without its scoring chances, from the likes of Charlie Baine, Cole Joubert, Ryan Cowen, Mack Klein and others, as the Ramblers won a 12-10 edge in shots in the second period.

The third period was only 10 seconds old when Harer scored on assists from Charlie Hoffman and Sean Wilson, giving Saint Viator a 2-0 lead. Loyola brought the thunder for much of the third period but Grimaldi and company proved up to the challenge.

“Hats off to that team and (Grimaldi). He played well and made the saves he needed to make,” Lockwood said. “But we also need to do a better job of capitalizing on our opportunities, especially down there at the end of the third period tonight.”

Grimaldi shined down the stretch of Saturday’s game.

“Dom stood on his head for us tonight,” Benz said. “He played a great game and without him we don’t come out of here with a goose egg.”

Grimaldi brought some extra motivation with him to Loyola's home ice on Saturday.

“Last year I lost to this team four times in overtime,” Grimaldi said. “So I had this game circled. I just had to stay strong and the boys helped get me through, and that’s all I can ask for. It was a good team effort.”

The game’s final goal came with 2:50 left to play when Strutynski sent a puck the length of the ice into an empty Loyola net.

Saint Viator has now posted two wins over Stevenson and one each against Loyola and Barrington in its last five games, with its lone loss during that span to Glenbrook South.

“Dylan played well tonight and got that second goal for us,” Benz said. “And (Angelo) Massaro, (Aidan) O’Neill, and (Sean) Nutley always create for us and they had a couple of great shifts tonight.”

Harer liked what he saw all around from his boys.

“We just kept going and kept working hard, all game,” Harer said. “We thought that if we kept working hard, eventually we’d find the back of the net. All four lines were working hard tonight and we’re not just depending on a couple of guys to score.”

Saturday’s goal was Harer’s seventh in SHL play, while O’Neill netted his third and Strutynski scored his first league goal of the year. Massaro leads the team with eight SHL goals and Charlie Hoffman has six, while O’Neill and Patrick Heneghan have three goals apiece.

After Saturday’s loss, Loyola is now 3-2 in its last five games, topping Stevenson, Barrington, and Carmel and losing 1-0 to top-ranked and SHL-leading New Trier.

Saint Viator’s next SHL game is at home on Saturday against Barrington, and the Lions host Glenbrook North on Sunday. Loyola hosts Lake Forest on Wednesday before taking on New Trier on Saturday.

“Those are two big games for us,” Lockwood said. “Lake Forest beat us the first time around and then obviously New Trier so those are two big games and (SHL) points that we need, so we know we can’t come out flat against either of those teams.

“The lesson we learned tonight is one we already know — that there are no easy games in this league. We’ve had Viator’s number for a little while and obviously, they came out ready to play and wanted this game a little more than we did. So that’s on us, the team and the coaching staff, to be better prepared next time.

“I guess the one positive tonight is that we’re excited to have Mikey Baker and Garvin St. John back. They’re two football players and tonight was the first time we’ve really had our entire lineup available to us. Now there’s just some chemistry that needs to get built.”