After a hot start to the two-month season, the Mt. Carmel hockey team hit a rough patch over the last two weeks.

But, after losing to two of the best teams in the Chicago Catholic Hockey League (CCHL), Providence and St. Ignatius, junior George Keeley knew the Caravan was capable of big wins; the team just needed to put it all together.

Mt. Carmel did that on March 25 against rival Br. Rice.

After falling into an early early 2-0 hole, the Caravan rallied for a last-second 3-2 win over host Br. Rice at the Oak Lawn Ice Arena in CCHL action.

Keeley tied the game at 2 with 6:29 remaining on a power-play goal.

“Coming back from tough losses to Providence and St. Ignatius, this one meant a lot to the team,” Keeley said. “It’s a big comeback for us. We weren’t doing well, but the boys flipped it around after that 3-on-5 power play. We found some energy late in the third.”

Mt. Carmel snapped a 5-game losing streak with the exciting win.

Jack Landry and Keeley (Beverly, Christ the King) scored a goal apiece with forward Bryce Tajkowski knocking in the game-winner with 22 seconds left in the contest.

Sophomore goalie Matthew DiFilippo delivered a gem in net with 41 saves, including a flurry of denials in the closing minutes.

“It feels good to bounce back,” DiFilippo said. “We can pick it up from here, get a few more big wins and close things out well.”

In his first year coaching at his alma mater, Mt. Carmel Coach Tom Mayhan said he’s impressed by the continued improvement of his squad.

Mayhan is a 1995 Mt. Carmel alumnus.

“When we play the right way, we can beat anybody,” Mayhan said. “They’re learning. The culture, you can see it changing already. They’ve grown more confident.”

Landry opened the scoring for the Caravan midway through the second when he took advantage of a Br. Rice line change. Racing up the right side, Landry scored with a close-in shot.

However, Mt. Carmel wasn’t done riding the rollercoaster, surviving a 5-on-3 power play at the end of the second and into the third period.

Keeley provided the equalizer with a scrappy goal on a power play, tapping in the puck past Br. Rice goalie Edmund Vogrich on a scrum in front of the net with 6:29 remaining in the game.

“We got a shot through by Luka DiFilippo, and we had three guys whacking at the puck and Vogrich,” Keeley said. “I happened to tap in the last one.”

Tajkowski’s winner came after a hectic, back-and-forth final 5 minutes that saw Br. Rice control possession more but was unable to knock in the game-winner.

For the Crusaders, Luke Lawrence and Blake Mayer (assist) scored a goal apiece. Vogrich finished with 46 saves.

In net for the Caravan, DiFilippo (Evergreen Park, Most Holy Redeemer) was a wall late against a wave of Br. Rice shots.

“They weren’t getting a lot of bodies in front of the net, so I was able to see most of the shots,” DiFilippo said. “Our team was doing a good job clearing things out. Shots that would have been more difficult, the defense blocked it or cleared a guy out so I could see better.”

DiFilippo split time last year in net with then-senior Evan Madrigal.

Now with a full year of varsity hockey under his belt, DiFilippo’s doing his best to help his younger Caravan teammates make the same jump he did.

“I learned a lot from Evan last year,” DiFilippo said. “This year, I want to help out my other teammates. I’m still young where I’m only a sophomore; but, I’ve got some varsity experience, and I want to help any way I can.”