Council Rock South advanced to the Flyers Cup AA Tournament semifinals with a win over Downingtown West. Photos provided courtesy of Tracy Valko. Check back for a photo gallery. All SOS photo galleries for ICE HOCKEY can be viewed by clicking HERE.
#3 Council Rock South 4, #6 Downingtown West 1
By Craig Ostroff
In his first season as the starting goalkeeper for Council Rock South, Carson Lopez has been playing like a seasoned veteran. The junior netminder has posted a whopping five shutouts for the Golden Hawks and boasts a stingy 2.05 goals against average.
He’s also been in his fair share of pressure situations and has come through time and again, posting a 3-1-2 record in games decided by two goals or fewer.
So if Lopez was feeling any pressure leading the Golden Hawks into Thursday’s Flyers Cup Class AA quarterfinal against sixth seed Downingtown West, he certainly wasn’t showing it.
“I don’t really have a choice,” Lopez said with a laugh. “I’ve got to do everything I can for my team. I’m nothing without my team in front of me.”
The third-seeded Hawks executed their defensive game plan to perfection, made the most of their opportunities in the offensive zone, and emerged with a 4-1 victory over the Whippets and a berth in the semifinals.
But while a full team effort in all three zones was critical, no one shone brighter on this night than Lopez.
“Carson’s been our backbone all year,” said Hawks’ coach Joe Houk. “He’s so smooth and so focused when he gets into games, that’s one thing I never have to worry about.
“He’s so laidback. He’s just like, ‘I got this one, coach.’ I don’t say anything to him. He just goes out and does his job.”
Lopez could not be fazed on this night. He turned aside 29 of 30 Whippets’ shots, including a few 10-bell saves, and his defense was solid in front of him while the South forwards looked for their moments to strike.
“Good teams are built from the goal line out,” Houk said. “I’ve got two stellar defensemen and the rest of the guys do what they’re told to and do it well. I’ve got a pretty young core, and Carson has been absolutely awesome all year. That makes our job easy on offense.
“We did a really good job defensive-wise tonight. Carson - he was able to see a lot, there were not really any point-blank shots from the slot area. Our D did a really tremendous job.”
Special teams also came up big for the Golden Hawks, who found themselves having to kill back-to-back 2-minute minors early in the third period of a chippy contest. On the second penalty kill, Julian Wagenmann and Matt Constantini showed some masterful keep-away skills in the offensive zone, and managed several quality shots despite being a man down.
On the same penalty kill, Wagenmann intercepted a break out of the Whippets’ zone and got the puck to Kevin Koles, who crossed the blue line and ripped a shot to the short side that beat Downingtown West goalkeeper Thomas Venzie and gave the Hawks the momentum as well as some breathing room with a 3-1 lead.
“We knew they had a strong power play, and we knew we had to lock them down, and that’s what we did,” Koles said. “Burying one was the cherry on top. We picked it off at the blue line, I cut to the middle, the guy gave me that space, I just took the shot and it went in.”
The Hawks put the game away with just over 6 minutes left when Wagenmann made a great play at his own blue line to spring himself and David Vergules on a two-on-one. Vergules fired it home to give the Hawks the 4-1 lead.
“You kill those power plays off and at the end of the second one Koles with a shorty, that’s big right there,” Houk said. “Then Wagenmann and Vergules, that one-timer was awesome. We shut them down and they couldn’t do much after that. This was a good effort from our guys.”
The two teams battled to a stalemate through most of the first period. The Hawks managed the only tally of the opening frame when Sarne drew back the puck on a faceoff win in the offensive zone, and Evan Mostoller wristed a shot from the point that found the net with 51 seconds remaining.
The Whippets knotted the score at 1-1 midway through the second when Harrison Weingartner forced the puck under Lopez’ outstretched pad on a breakaway, but the Hawks came right back and stopped West’s momentum quickly, regaining the lead one minute, 40 seconds later when Gavin Nisenzon fired in a centering pass from Sarne. Sam Cherkassky also picked up a helper on the goal.
“We’ve got the best goalie in the league,” Koles said. “He always keeps us in games, always keeps us close, so we had to get that goal back and get it done for him.”
The Golden Hawks (15-1-2-1) will return to action on Thursday, March 17, 6:45 p.m., at Ice Line for a Class AA semifinal game against second seed Haverford High, which edged Neshaminy 6-5 in overtime of their quarterfinal matchup.
The Golden Hawks will take some time to celebrate the victory before turning their attention to the next task at hand.
“We’ll probably enjoy this for a couple more hours, then on Monday we’re back to work,” Lopez said.
Council Rock South 4, Downingtown West 1
Downingtown West 0 1 0 – 1
Council Rock South 1 1 2 – 4
First period: 1, Evan Mostoller CRS (Julian Sarne assist) 0:51.
Second period: 2, Harrison Weingartner DW 7:40; 3, Gavin Nisenzon CRS (Sarne, Sam Cherkassky assist) 6:00.
Third period: 4, Kevin Koles CRS (Julian Wagenmann assist) SH 11:34; 5, David Vergules CRS (Wagenmann, Koles assist) 6:12.
Shots: Downingtown West 30; Council Rock South 32
Saves: Thomas Venzie (DW) 28; Carson Lopez (CRS) 29.