Solving the impenetrable Ryan Iaciancio proved to be an unenviable and unattainable task.
But there was this.
Anthony Guzzardo, an all-in, fast-moving and hard-charging senior forward for the Loyola Gold boys hockey team, turned into Crash Guzzardo when he cannonballed into the opposition’s net midway through the first period.
He went in headfirst. His cramped body nestled between the pipes.
Guzzardo, going all out, was trying to scrape something together. Trying to poke in a loose puck near the doorstep.
“Just trying to make a scrappy play,” said the gritty Guzzardo.
But a few split seconds earlier, the 6-foot-2, 245-pound Iaciancio, a two-time all-stater and a huge, mighty fortress in goal for the Providence Catholic Celtics, had redirected the puck to thwart a golden scoring chance.
Throughout this Amateur Hockey Association Illinois (AHAI) Blackhawk Cup state semifinal game at Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville on March 13, Iaciancio protected the Providence goal like it was Fort Knox.
No. 33 in the oversized green and white jersey put an end to LA’s solid season (39-29-1).
“Their goalie was unreal tonight,” said Guzzardo, a stand-up guy, following LA Gold’s 5-0 setback to the second-seeded Celtics. “Their goalie is the backbone of their team.”
“We couldn’t get one behind him,” LA head coach DJ Lavarre pitched in.
The same could be said about LA Gold’s Thomas Moran. Coming into his game as a hot goaltender — having recorded shutouts against Glenbrook South (5-0 final score) and Neuqua Valley (7-0) in the first two state tournament games — Moran made a flurry of saves in the first period and throughout most of the second period.
“We played the way we wanted to play in the first period,” said Lavarre.
Moran and his defensive mates killed off a couple of early power plays, including a two-man advantage late in the first period.
But then, things got wild and crazy. And we’re not only talking about all those Providence student fans dressed in togas — like they were rehearsing to be extras in the 1978 cult film, National Lampoon’s Animal House.
Enter Providence’s other superstar: Jacob Rott. No. 4 was crazy good.
Faster than you could say, Dirty “Rott-en” Scoundrels, the Celtics put together a barrage of activity.
Rott, a 6-3 senior all-state forward, who has scored 124 points this season, broke a 0-0 deadlock, when he converted an LA mistake by hitting a laser over Moran’s left shoulder with 4:55 left in the second period.
“That goal,” Lavarre said, “sort of unhinged us.
“And to get unhinged like that is pretty uncharacteristic of our team,” the coach added. “We’re pretty resilient.”
Rott, the 2016 AHAI Player of the Year who will play Juniors in Texas next season, wasn’t done.
Following a goal by teammate Cam Cutler (with 3:12 left in the second period) to make it two-nil, Rott made the stylish play of the game when he galloped down the ice on a breakaway and essentially scored on his own assist — rebounding his own shot off the boards — with 2:14 remaining in the second period.
The Celtics eventually made things darn near impossible for LA, when they added their fourth goal in the first minute of the third period.
“After they capitalized on a couple of our mistakes, I think we took our foot off the gas,” said Guzzardo. “They smelled blood. They were hungry. They finished. We didn’t.”
Soon, it was obvious that LA Gold would be unable to overcome Providence’s all-out blitz — especially with the mighty Iaciancio standing guard at the other end. The Providence goaltender came into this showdown with a 1.6 goals-against average and a gaudy save percentage (94 percent).
“He’s not the most nimble guy,” offered Providence head coach Nick Iaciancio, who also just happens to be the father of the star goalie. “But, as long as he stops pucks, I’m good. He’s consistent and plays with a lot of composure, especially when he goes under the bright lights.”
LA Gold desperately wanted to play under the bright lights of United Center, site of the state championship game on March 17.
Thus, as you might expect, the LA Gold locker room was not a happy place after the game.
“It’s just now settling in for me,” said Guzzardo, a good 30 minutes after the game. “I have no emotions right now. Hard to describe.”
Notable: Loyola Gold finished the season with a lot of award winners. The AHAI all-staters include senior goalie Ryan Trueman; senior defensemen Ben Odle and Parker Ray; and senior forwards Austin Eng and Danny Sullivan. … Two LA Gold players — Eng and senior forward John Purcell — have been selected to play on the Illinois squad in the 2017 America’s Showcase, which will be held on April 20-24 at the Robert Morris Island Sports Center in Pittsburgh. … Ray also named to the 2017 Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Association (CBAA) High School All-Star Team.