January 3, 2006 > Midget-A1
It took awhile, but the Santa Clara Blackhawks finally got their offense untracked for the Holidays, riding a hat trick off the stick of Mitch Venosta to a 6-0 victory over the Channel Islands Riptide. The Blackhawks' Anthony Dragotto, Kyle Nunn, and Patrick Castagna also contributed lamp lighters, with a playmaker (three assists) coming from Jason Pacheco, two assists from Billy Kiernan, and lone helpers pitched in by Sam Boyer, Kevin Arabejo, Derek Fredericks and Kyle Yedlicka.
The Riptide were the third straight solid defensive club that the Hawks have faced out of Southern California and the game started in much the same fashion as their first two games of the tournament. Santa Clara jumped to a 1-0 lead, but their second goal was much harder to come by than their first. In today's game, penalties were the momentum killer. After Mitch Venosta found the five-hole on a wrist shot just 1:39 into the contest, the Blackhawks proceeded to pick up four minor penalties over the next 9:49. The penalty-kill effort was stellar however, particularly during a 1:32 stretch where the Riptide had a two-man advantage. Patrick Castagna, flanked first by Billy Kiernan and Brian Quirolo, and later by Sam Boyer and Derek Fredericks, keyed the successful penalty kill. Goaltender Devon Luna capped the effort with a glovehand snag at 7:13. Luna stopped all seven shots he faced in the period, including another snatch and hold on a subsequent Riptide power play at 4:23. All told, Luna stopped 14 shots in the contest, his third straight lights-out performance of the tournament.
In the second period, Santa Clara managed to stay out of the penalty box and not surpassingly, the momentum began to swing in their favor. But it wasn't until 4:57 that the Blackhawks were able to extend their lead, and it came on another seeing-eye wrister from Mitch Venosta. Then, just 51 seconds later, Anthony Dragotto scored his first goal of the contest, a wraparound effort that extended the Blackhawks' lead to 3-0. Devon Luna faced only three shots in the period, but two were excellent scoring chances. At 3:55, Luna stuffed a one-timer from right in front, and then at 3:35, he snatched a rising wrister with the big chopper after a Hawks turnover in their own end.
With a little bit of a cushion to work with, the Blackhawks offense really began to click in the third period. First Mitch Venosta capped his hat trick performance with a one-timer snapped over the goaltender's glove at 10:57. Jason Pacheco delivered the centering feed on Venosta's goal and it earned him his third assist of the contest. Next to bury the biscuit for the Hawks was Kyle Nunn. Rushing in to break up a Riptide skater who had just come around his own net, Nunn delivered a steal and a goal with one swing of the stick, sending the puck over the goaltender's outstretched glove at 7:46. It was the fourth goal of the contest for the Nunn, Venosta, Pacheco line, and the trio's seventh and final point in what could have been a clean sweep of the three stars of the game. Patrick Castagna capped the night's scoring with a rebound roof job at 5:05 that came off Kyle Yedlicka's hard shot off the pads from the right slot. Devon Luna then nailed down his shutout with a cat-quick save on a rebound effort at 0:17.
Santa Clara next meets the Santa Clarita Mustangs, 6-1 winners over the California Golden Bears in a game played just before the Blackhawks and Riptide squared off. With a win, the Blackhawks will move on to Friday's championship game. A loss will mean an early trip home for the Hawks.