Constantine hat trick lifts Eustace to victory

By ANTHONY COPPOLA Gannett New Jersey January 10, 2009

WASHINGTON TWP. Mark Constantine wasn't about to let the Bishop Eustace ice hockey team's win streak stop at seven.

The junior center recorded a hat trick Friday night to lift the Crusaders to a 4-1 victory over host St. Augustine at Hollydell Ice Arena.

Constantine struck just 10 seconds into the game and Chris Tracy added another goal less than 30 seconds later to stake Bishop Eustace (8-1) to a quick 2-0 lead.

"Those two goals definitely got our blood going," Constantine said. "They let us set the tempo we wanted."

The Crusaders' fast start was reminiscent of a Dec. 12 meeting between the two teams -- a game Bishop Eustace won 8-1.

But this time around St. Augustine was able to weather the early storm and mount a comeback behind the play of goaltender Joe Pantalone.

The sophomore made 18 saves in relief of injured starter Ryan Perro, who left midway through the first period after colliding with Crusaders forward Jamie Hill.

The Hermits struck on a 5-on-3 power play goal with 1:47 remaining in the second period. Center Kevin Mathers gathered a loose puck in the crease and deposited it under Bishop Eustace goalie Kyle Van Osten's right arm to cut the lead to 2-1.

St. Augustine (1-10) nearly knotted the game in the waning moments of the middle frame, but Van Osten made possibly the best of his 37 saves, gloving a shot by Roman Ammirato that was headed for a top corner of the net.

Despite the Crusaders' early success, coach Mike Green never expected Bishop Eustace to run away with the game.

"Quick starts are great to have but they tend to give you a false sense of security," he said. "We let off a bit and the game tightened up."

Constantine extended Bishop Eustace's lead 47 seconds into the third period, ramming home a rebound from a Chris Gentile slap shot. His third tally came just over four minutes later on a backdoor one-timer from Hill, who had two assists.

"Hill and Gentile had a lot to do with my scoring success tonight," Constantine said. "We have been playing on the same line most of the season and work well together."

The Crusaders have now won two straight against the Hermits after dropping the previous five meetings.  Prior to the five-game skid, Eustace dominated the rivalry, taking 15 of the first 17 meetings between the two teams.

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