Senior Hunter Smith scored four goals and St. Vincent Pallotti won nine of 14 faceoffs as the Panthers cruised to a 10-2 victory over Chapelgate Christian Academy in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference clash at Cedar Lane Park on Friday.
“We put the ball in the net a few times and we beat them on ground balls, so that was the biggest thing,” said first-year Pallotti coach Danny Phillips.
The Panthers outscored the Yellowjackets in all four quarters but pulled away with dominant a second and fourth. Phillips said his team did well in transition in the first half and the clutch goals at the end of quarter made a big difference.
“Of the five goals we scored I think only two were on set offense and three were transition,” he said. “We pushed the ball a little bit and that was able to give us a four-goal lead and from that point on I think we did a pretty good job just possessing the ball.”
Smith scored the final two goals before the half, including one with two seconds left, to complete a hat trick and buried his fourth with five seconds remaining in the third quarter to make it 7-2.
Smith also took on a new role at the face-off ‘X’. Phillips said injuries forced his hand but the senior leader responded well.
“Hunter facing off was a big part of our success today. He’s a four-year starter at attack and this year we’re down our No. 1 and No. 2 faceoff guy, so we’ve gone to two [defensive] poles and him,” Phillips said. “Today he had it and it really probably is the first game he faced off. ... He had a hell of a game and he’s a hell of a player.”
Zach Burns scores his second goal on Pallotti’s first possession of the second half before Chapelgate strung together its first consistent offensive threat of the game. The Yellowjackets launched 10 shots toward Panthers senior goalie Andrew Jumbelick in the stanza but only managed one goal by Marc Little, his second, in the sequence.
“Marc Little is a really, really good player,” said Chapelgate co-coach Bill Gould. “If he can stop hitting pipes we’ll be OK.”
Phillips said that although his team was outshot by six in the quarter he was pleased with the details his defense played with to avoid good chances on net.
“Our senior goalie Andrew Jumbelick did a good job and out defenders on ball did a good job steering shots away from the cage,” he said. “They might have outshot us by a bunch but the actual shot percentage on cage wasn’t too high for them.”
The Panthers put three more goals away in the fourth quarter to pull away. Nathan Smith also had a pair of goals and Burns finished with two goals and two assists.
Both Phillips and Gould are in their first year with their respective programs and have their sights set on building for the future. For Pallotti, which went 9-0 in the C Conference and 12-7 overall last season, the future is now.
“It’s the million dollar question: how to build a team and install your own culture of what it means to be a part of a team. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but we have high expectations for all the student athletes at Pallotti and we’re holding them to those expectations,” Phillips said. “At the end of the day we’re working to move as a single unit, but as a first-year coach there are a few stragglers trying to catch up and I expect that. But come May 1 I think we’ll be a tighter-knit unit.”
The Yellowjackets, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-6 season and only have 15 active players on the roster. Avoiding injuries, like they had to sophomore Justin Ricketts early in the game, and staying fresh will be among the top challenges this season.
“I think we’re trying to build for the future. We only have four seniors, so we’re in a really good situation. I feel really optimistic for the future,” Gould said. “This is a program that Chapelgate has been trying to build and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build some pride in the program, involvement of the parents, and the school is very much behind us.”
St. Vincent Pallotti (3-2) — 10, Chapelgate Christian Academy (2-3) — 2
Goals: SVP — Hunter Smith 4, Nathan Smith 2, Zach Burns 2, Nate Jones, Christian Shembari; CCA — Marc Little 2
Assists: SVP — Aiden Lozano 2, Patrick McGinley 2, Burns 2; CCA — None
Saves: SVP — Andrew Jumbelick ; CCA — Josh Na 6
Halftime: 5-1, Pallotti