By Mike Dougherty
RYE – Christian Van Hecke is a threat no matter where he is on the ice and scores goals at just about the same rate that Pope Francis rattles off Hail Marys.
Iona Prep’s speedy senior forward set a proper tone for his teammates, scoring in the opening minute of the regular-season finale against rival Fordham Prep. He was the catalyst behind a fast start that led to a 7-1 win on Saturday at Playland Ice Casino.
Van Hecke finished with three goals and three assists.
“All of us have played together since we were 8 years old,” Rams forward Danny Bugniazet said. “I’ve never played with anyone faster. No way. The kid can fly.”
A bust of adrenaline led to the first goal.
“It’s a big rivalry game for us, and it’s the last one for me,” Van Hecke said. “You come out and see the crowd and everything kicks in.”
He was loose again 90 seconds later, and this time went behind the back with a nifty pass to Glenn Puppa who had all kinds of empty net at his disposal. Luke Damiano kept the run going when came straight down and finished with some nifty stick work, then Andrew Logerfo tacked on a power-play goal to make it 4-0 with less than eight minutes gone.
“We’ve gotten off to really good starts in all three games against them,” Gaels coach Charles Berger said. “They came back in the other two. This time, we said, ‘It’s still 0-0.’ We kept going and that made a big difference.”
Nic Buongiorno made a number of saves that let Fordham Prep know a comeback wasn’t likely.
The second Van Hecke goal came in the opening minutes of the second period, then he set up Logerfo to make it a 6-0 cushion. Puppa set up Van Heck early in the third, and Bugniazet ended the shutout bid with four minutes to go.
Iona Prep (12-11-1) lost momentum in the closing weeks of the season, but is healthy again. The Gaels earned the No. 4 seed and open the CHSHL playoffs against St. Anthony’s on Wednesday at Dix Hills.
“We have to get under their skin, get in their heads,” Van Hecke said. “We might not have the same talent, but we have what it takes to win.”
Iona Prep was 0-3 against the Friars in the regular season.
“We have to play like a group,” Buongiorno said. “We have to come out strong and finish each game. This win definitely helps. It gives us a push, lets us know we can pull out a win when we need to.”