Pennridge & CR South were winners in Wednesday’s Flyers Cup AA semifinals and will meet in Tuesday’s title game. Pennridge/Avon Grove photos provided courtesy of Tracy Valko. Check back for a gallery of photos. All SOS photo galleries for ICE HOCKEY can be viewed by clicking HERE.
#1 Pennridge 8, #5 Avon Grove 1
By Ben Reese
HATFIELD — This is a goal Pennridge ice hockey captain Jack Lowery has been working toward for a very long time.
It started when he was just a sophomore, followed him through his junior season and was still part of him in this his senior year. It is advancing to the championship game of the Flyers Cup.
That is exactly what the Rams did on Wednesday night at Hatfield Ice with an 8-1 victory over Avon Grove. It now sets up a finale against Council Rock South, a 4-1 winner over Haverford in the other semifinal game.
“This is what we’ve been working for for the last three years,” Lowery said. “Three years ago, we lost 13 seniors, and no one thought we would be in this position three years later.
“Here we are, proving people wrong. It is so bittersweet for us.”
A large part of the win over the Red Devils grew from the three-goal first period, putting the Rams in control of the game. It only got worse for Avon Grove after that.
“The past few games, we’ve come out a little slow, gone down early,” Lowery explained. “We said in the locker room before the game that the biggest thing is to come out here and get a couple goals fast.
“They’re looking up at us. We’re the No. 1 seed and we want them chasing us. Get us on our game and get them off theirs and that is exactly what happened tonight.”
Avon Grove never really knew what hit it. Pennridge jumped out early and stayed on top of the Red Devils for the entire game.
Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna couldn’t have been prouder of his charges.
“The thing I am the most proud of right now is that as kids 15, 16, 17, 18 years old, they dealt with the pressure of expectations all year,” Montagna said. “They dealt with the pressure of being the hunted all year.
“They haven’t backed down from that ever. I thought tonight was by far the best game they played all year on the biggest stage. That’s an impressive thing for a bunch of kids.”
The only pressure the Rams felt was the pressure they put on Avon Grove. It was heavy and persistent.
It started with 4:16 gone in the opening period. Andrew Savona took a pass from Kevin Pico and beat Red Devil goalie Justin Mackley for the first goal of the game.
Slightly less than four minutes later, Shane Dachowski got into the act off assists from Aidan Boyle and Lowery. And then 30 seconds later, Pico notched the third goal of the period with help from Tyler Manto.
Suddenly it was 3-0 and Avon Grove was looking to find out what hit it. Even though the Red Devils outshot the Rams in the period 11-10, Avon Grove was never a threat to the Rams.
The thought, if you were Avon Grove, was that you could get back in the game in the second period. But that didn’t materialize.
Instead, Pennridge upped the pressure. Manto scored a short-handed goal on a backhand off a feed from Shane Dachowski and it was 4-0.
Pennridge didn’t let up in the third period. The Rams put four goals on the board while finally allowing the Devils to score.
Savona netted his second goal with an assist by Pico before Brendan Chandler got the first and only goal for Avon Grove. That was followed by three Pennridge markers scored by Aeryk Lehrhaupt, Ryan Schuler (Andrew Davis assist) and Shane Dachowski (Lowery and Schuler assists).
All but lost in the shuffle of the Rams' eight-goal onslaught was yet another standout effort in goal by Ryan Pico, who turned away 25 of 26 shots he faced.
All of this sets up the Flyers Cup finale on Tuesday, March 22, at Hatfield Ice against Council Rock South. It will be the fourth meeting between the two teams.
“It’s a good thing and a bad thing,” said Montagna. “You never like to see a team for a fourth time, and they’ve never beaten you yet.
“We know going in exactly what we’re getting. These last couple games we didn’t know what we were going to see.”
In point of fact, Pennridge has won two of the three games against the Golden Hawks, 5-0 during the regular season and 5-4 in overtime in the Suburban High School Hockey League championship game. The other game ended in a 3-3 tie.
Lowery said his teammates will be ready.
“We played them in the final for the SHSHL and we won that game in overtime,” he said. “They easily could have won that game too.
“If we come out and have a start like we did today and play any ounce of defense, I think we have a good shot at beating them. These guys (his teammates) are all in.”
It’s going to be an interesting Flyers Cup final.
Pennridge 8, Avon Grove 1
Avon Grove 0 0 1 — 1
Pennridge 3 1 4 — 8
First period: 1, Andrew Savona P (Kevin Pico) 4:16; 2, Shane Dachowski P (Aidan Boyle, Jack Lowery) 8:09; 3, K. Pico P (Tyler Manto) 8:39.
Second period: 4, Manto P (S. Dachowski) 11:49 SH.
Third period: 5, Savona P (K. Pico) 1:22; 6, Brendan Chandler AG (Will Gorman) 6:33 PP; 7, Aeryk Lehrhaupt P (unassisted) 10:57 PP; 8, Ryan Schuler P (Andrew David) 14:22; 9, S. Dachowski P (Lowery, Schuler) 16:24 PP.
Shots: AG26, P 39. Saves: Justin Mackley (AG) 31, Ryan Pico (P) 25
#3 Council Rock South 4, #2 Haverford High 1
By Craig Ostroff
David Vergules was just about unstoppable on this night.
It wasn’t just that the Council Rock South senior forward notched a hat trick in the Golden Hawks’ 4-1 victory over Central League champion and defending Flyers Cup Class AA champion Haverford High in
Wednesday’s semifinal, it was the manner in which he scored his three goals, with remarkable solo efforts and nifty stickwork.
“Vergules played his (butt) off tonight, he was on a mission,” said Council Rock South coach Joe Houk. “David’s a good kid, a good character player. He’s always good on offense, but sometimes he forgets about defense. Tonight he really stepped it up on both ends, he looked great on offense and on defense. When he was out there, he was carrying the play. I was very, very happy about that.”
Vergules opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game when he bolted down the right boards with the puck, skated behind the Haverford net and wrapped the puck around and into the cage.
With the game tied 1-1 early in the third period and the Hawks deep in the Haverford zone, Vergules stripped a Ford defender at the face-off circle and ripped a shot from the slot past Fords’ goalkeeper Jai Jani. The goal gave the third-seeded Hawks all the confidence and momentum they would need to close out the third period in a dominant fashion, and it would hold up as the eventual game-winner.
“We had almost scored on them at the end of the second period, and we came out in the third period on the power play and played well, so the confidence was there,” Houk said. “The thing we’ve struggled with all year is the mental part of game, staying focused. We didn’t score on the power play, but we could see they were getting tired toward the end of the second period, they were running their top line a lot.
“When David got that go-ahead goal, you could just see the energy and see the lights light up in our guys’ eyes.”
Kevin Koles scored through a maze of players on a shot from the point less than two minutes later to increase the South lead to 3-1.
From then on, Hawks’ goalkeeper Carson Lopez and his defense did what they do best, forcing the Fords to the outside for low percentage shots. And on the occasion that Lopez was called upon to make a big stop, he was up to the task, saving 26 of 27 Ford shots on the night.
“On defense, we’ve been working on keeping kids to the outside,” Houk said. “We’ve done a great job the last month-and-a-half. Everything came from the outside, we’re taking the slot area away. The first goal they scored was one hell of a shot, but Carson and the defense shut him down after that.
“We expect that from Carson. He always does an excellent job. He’s one of the best goalies in the area and he keeps proving it.”
Vergules iced the game with an empty net goal to secure the hat trick and a berth in the Class AA finals.
“We have really been playing our best hockey over the last four weeks,” Houk said. “We played some great hockey before, but they really started jelling, they really got focused on the mission and took things up a level. And our seniors have been such great leaders.
“You watch Koles, him and Kyle Boss on defense have just been lights-out for us. Blaise Pepe had a great game for us tonight, Gavin Nisenzon had one of his best games of the year. Sam Cherkassky was all over the place for us tonight.”
The victory sets up an all-SHSHL showdown in Tuesday’s Flyers Cup Class AA Final. The Hawks will square off against top seed Pennridge, which dispatched Avon Grove 8-1 on Wednesday. It will be the fourth meeting of the season for the two rivals. Pennridge won the early-season matchup 5-0 on Dec. 2. The teams battled to a 3-3 tie in the season finale on Feb 16, and Pennridge pulled out a 5-4 victory in an overtime thriller to win the SHSHL Class AA title on March 3.
“The guys have been listening, doing right things, we got away from the selfish play we sometimes saw earlier in the season,” Houk said. “We stick to the game plan, manage the game the way we know how to, we’ll be successful.
“Confidence-wise, we’re at a high. Win, lose, or draw, it’s been a great year. We got a lot further than a lot of people thought we could get, and we’re playing our best hockey right now. We’re looking forward to Tuesday. It’s going to be one of the best games to watch all year.”
Council Rock South 1 0 3 – 4
Haverford High 1 0 0 – 1
First period: 1, David Vergules CRS 13:33; 2, Jagur McClelland HH (Quinn Carson assist) 11:39.
Second period: No Score
Third period: 3, Vergules CRS 12:59; 4, Kevin Koles CRS 11:16; Vergules CRS 1:50 ENG.
Shots on goal: Council Rock South 25; Haverford High 27.
Saves: Carson Lopez (CRS) 26; Jai Jani (HH) 21.