WASHINGTON, D.C. – Joe Clark’s fourth hat trick of the season and a stellar team defensive performance kept Elizabethtown unbeaten in Landmark Conference play Saturday afternoon with an 8-4 victory at Catholic.
Clark reached the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career, after coming up a goal and assist short of a 20-20 season during his rookie season in 2014. His first of three on the day came just 4:29 in and the Blue Jays (8-2, 3-0 Landmark) led from start-to-finish.
Elizabethtown, which won its seventh consecutive game, is now one win away from tying the longest winning streak in program history. The Blue Jays ran off eight victories in a row during a 12-4 season in 2009.
In the process, coach Drew Delaney’s team stayed balanced, working well at both ends of the field.
E-town generated 18 first-half shots and outshot Catholic 8-1 in the first quarter. The Blue Jays’ defense caused 10 of the Cardinals’ (6-4, 1-2 Landmark) 20 turnovers and held them to their lowest goal total of the season.
Cody Larkin’s goal at 7:22 of the first increased the visitors’ lead to 2-0, which is where it remained after 15 minutes.
The Blue Jays took advantage of a low-scoring second with Clark potting his 21st at 3:56 and Nick Specht scoring in the final 10 seconds for a 4-1 lead at the half.
Catholic got as close as 4-2 on Victor Licata’s 18th goal of the season 59 seconds into the third, but the Blue Jays were not deterred, scoring three straight. Clark completed the hat trick, Russ LeClair scored his 20th from Jimmy Waters and Waters rounded out the third quarter scoring from Clark.
Mike Specht also had the Jays’ lone fourth quarter goal as they pushed the lead to 8-2 with 12:33 remaining.
Chris Wenger made 11 saves, including five in the fourth to deny Catholic any hopes of a comeback. The senior from Kingsville, Md., posted his fourth game of 10 saves or more in 2015 and lowered his goals against average to an even 5.00 on the year. Wenger came into the game ranked sixth in the country in GAA.
Elizabethtown’s defense, which ranks seventh in Division III scoring defense at 5.11 goals allowed per game, came up huge on three CUA extra-man opportunities in the third, sending the Cards away empty-handed each time.
Wenger stopped Dylan Neville with Kevin Meakim off for a slash early in the quarter and the Blue Jays ran out the remaining time on the penalty. Late in the quarter, the Blue and Gray went two men down, but Wenger denied Jonathan Curran and Matt Frey forced a Curran turnover to quell the threat.
Licata collected two of the Cardinals’ four goals, with Brian Keith and Samuel Montgomery each scoring once. Goalie Harrison Holak made 13 saves in a losing effort.
Elizabethtown will go for its record-tying eighth win in a row Wednesday afternoon at 4 on the road at Immaculata.