It's a familiar spot for Christian Brothers Academy, being one of the final four teams remaining in the Non-Public State Hockey Tournament. The Colts are the two-time defending state champions, tying Morristown-Beard in 2014 and beating Delbarton in dramatic fashion in 2015.
But it's also familiar for the Colts because of their opponent, Gordon Conference rival Don Bosco Prep, who CBA will face-off against on Thursday night at Mennen Arena in Morristown.
The two teams have traded blows this season. Don Bosco got the best of the Colts in their two regular season meetings, winning match-ups in Wayne and at Jersey Shore Arena. The games were close, however, with Bosco winning by a goal in December and by a 3-1 margin in January.
Although the Ironmen beat CBA, the January 6 game at Jersey Shore Arena was memorable, as the two teams celebrated Military Appreciation Night.
Inevitably, the teams met in the Gordon Cup Playoffs, with the No. 3-seeded Colts downing No. 2 Don Bosco, 3-1, on the Ironmen's home ice in Wayne. That Gordon Cup semifinal win propelled CBA into the Gordon Cup Finals, where the Colts used a hat-trick by junior Derek Contessa to down No. 1 Delbarton, 3-1.
After a mid-January loss to Delbarton, the Colts have won 11-straight games, including their back-to-back playoff victories against Don Bosco and Delbarton.
Contessa has been a big part of that run, as the junior forward leads the Colts with 19 goals, while adding 13 assists. Meanwhile, senior captain and reigning NJ.com Player of the Year, Ryan Bogan, Jr., has been CBA's lead play-maker, with 10 goals and 32 assists to his credit.
The Colts have the Asbury Park Press' February Goalie of the Month in the net, as senior Michael Cernero has an outstanding 92% save clip.
Cernero has benefited from a terrific defensive line in front of him, with seniors James Stanger, Joe Marsciano, Chris Hayes, Mitch Shafer and Bogan forming a staunch defense.
The Colts are on a mission for their 10th state title, and while they were excited to win their eighth Gordon Cup, the players refused to touch the Cup, declaring they weren't finished just yet.
CBA head coach Ryan Bogan loves the enthusiasm and determination from his players, but said now is the time to show they really mean it.
"Clearly, we are doing and saying all the right things," Bogan said. "Now, we just have to go out and back it up. The message is simple, especially with all the seniors we have this year: win your last game. If we do that, they will not have any regrets."
Coach Bogan, who has been at the helm of the Colts since 2008, has led CBA to two state championships and three Gordon Cup wins, but knows that each year gets tougher than the last, especially with Don Bosco and Delbarton on the schedule upwards of four times each.
"It's difficult to beat most teams in the [Gordon Conference] consecutively," Bogan said. "All we accomplished the first time (beating Don Bosco and then Delbarton) was proving to ourselves that we could do it. Now, we need to do it again, when the state trophy is on the line."
Thursday's semifinal game against Don Bosco begins at 8:35 p.m. in Morristown. If the Colts can get past the Ironmen one more time this season, it'll be on to the Prudential Center for the third straight year, perhaps against Delbarton for the second year in a row.
- INSIDE ATHLETICS