Maybe it was only fitting that Joe Pantalone lost his shutout with less than four minutes on the clock.

Maybe it was a sign that the St. Augustine Prep goalie and his ice hockey teammates still have some loose ends to tie up.

This could be a big season for the Hermits and for Pantalone. That was clear during Thursday's 5-1 victory over Bishop Eustace in a Gordon Conference game at the Flyers Skate Zone in Pennsauken.

"People are expecting us to do great things this year," Pantalone said. "That's OK because that's the mentality that we have, too."

It's a long way from the middle of December to the middle of March, from the second game of the season to the Non-Public state finals.

But St. Augustine (2-0) has the ability to make the complete trip. This is a deep, talented team that is No. 2 in the state, according to njpowerranking.com.

Against ninth-ranked Bishop Eustace (1-2) – a junior-heavy team that will be in the mix come tournament time, too – St. Augustine received two goals from freshman Tony Sederio, three assists from junior Bill Manuella, and a strong all-around game from senior Roman Ammirato, who generated two assists and several good scoring chances.

But the key to the Hermits' victory was the play of Pantalone. The senior from Hammonton made 17 saves, several on low, hard shots by Bishop Eustace's speedy forwards.

"We had three or four what I call 'sneaky shots,' " Bishop Eustace coach Mike Green said. "But he [Pantalone] had a quick reaction to them. He kept control of the game."

Pantalone's best saves came in the first two periods. He stopped strong shots by Evan Keane and Dylan Lamorte on an early power play, and made great saves on Nick Fowler and Ricky Hunt in the second period.

Those saves enabled St. Augustine to break to a 3-0 lead after two periods.

"Joe is so focused," said Ammirato, who lives in Williamstown. "He's very quick, and he's always in good position."

Bishop Eustace's scoring chances forced Pantalone to be at the top of his game. He likes the challenge that comes from playing the fast-skating, quick-shooting teams in the Gordon Conference.

"It's weird, but I like the pressure of playing goalie," Pantalone said. "You are the last line of defense. When you make a big save, it can change the game."

St. Augustine coach Tim Fingerhut said Pantalone needed to be sharp because the rest of the Hermits were inconsistent. St. Augustine also was stymied several times by Bishop Eustace goalie David Wacker, who made 28 saves.

"We had some dominating shifts, then we would lose our focus," Fingerhut said. "The biggest thing for us is that we need consistent effort. We definitely have some things we need to clean up."

Pantalone had a shutout until Bishop Eustace scored on a power play with 3 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the game.

"I give Eustace credit," Pantalone said. "I wanted the shutout but they kept playing hard."

The Hermits will play a tough schedule, with a trip to New England to face a couple of prep schools and showcase their top players to college and junior-league scouts. One of those top players is their goalie, who also is a top student.

"We want to get some people to see Joe," Fingerhut said. "He's a kid who can play at the next level. We just have to find the right place for him."

For now, the best place for Pantalone is between the pipes, staying square on the shooter and keeping St. Augustine Prep on the fast track to the middle of March.

St. Augustine   1 2 2 – 5

Bishop Eustace   0 0 1 – 1

Goals: SA-Tony Sederio 2, Tony Sabitsky, Connor Crowe, Trevor Gooch; BE-Nick Fowler.

Saves: SA-Joe Pantalone 17; BE-David Wacker 28.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223 or panastasia@phillynews.com.