Pennridge edged North Penn in an overtime thriller to earn a spot in Thursday’s Flyers Club semifinal. Photos provided courtesy of Dara N King Photography and Kathy Leister Photography. Check back for a gallery of photos.
By Ben Reese
HATFIELD -- In big games, no matter what the sport, the cream rises to the top.
When the game is on the line, the best players tend to make the big play, tend to do what they are supposed to do, which is stand out.
On Monday night at Hatfield Ice, the best gave their best. Eric Slater scored two goals and added an assist as Pennridge beat North Penn 4-3 in overtime in a Flyers Cup quarterfinal game.
Not to be outdone, Nate Oh of North Penn scored all three Knight goals. Unfortunately for Oh, it came in a losing cause.
With 3:25 gone in the sudden death overtime period, Slater got a pass from Matthew Guniette and beat North Penn goalie Nick Ebbinghaus with a shot to the top right corner of the net for the game-winner. It wasn't a picture-prefect goal but, then, it didn't have to be.
"Matt got it at the point," Slater said. "I was just trying to drive to the net.
"He gave me a perfect pass. I made a move and took a shot and hoped for the best and it went in.
"I just made one move and shot the puck as fast as possible. I didn't even see it; I just saw that it went in."
The Rams had the right players on the ice at just the right time.
"He's going to go every other (shift) in that overtime," said Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna of Slater. "If we're going to win it, most likely, he's going to win it for us.
"(It was) one of the few times they gave him a lane to the middle of the ice. He picked a good time to do it.
"They did a good job all night on that line (Slater, Michael Walker, Blake Stewart). They (North Penn) lost containment for one shift and that's what happens."
North Penn came close earlier in the overtime but couldn't put the puck past Ram netminder Luke Stranick, whose 33 saves loomed large in the win.
"We were probably inches away from winning it there early in the overtime," Knight coach Kevin Vaitis said. "Just couldn't capitalize.
"Then a lucky bounce goes their way, right on Slater's stick. That's not the one you want to see but it is what it is."
Oh carried the Knights all night. He scored goals in every period including the tying marker with 2:16 remaining in the third period.
The hat trick gave him four goals for the Flyers Cup tournament.
"I've coached Nate for four years at varsity and I've seen him for seven years going back to middle school," Vaitis said. "Absolutely, that was the best game I've ever seen him play.
"Constant energy when he was out there. He just put the team on his back."
Strangely enough, both teams scored one goal in each of the three periods. That kept the score tied, forcing the overtime.
In the first period, Oh put North Penn on the board first, scoring with 7:39 gone. Slater came right back slightly less that two minutes later to tie it at 1-1.
Walker gave Pennridge its first lead 1:03 into the second period. But Oh notched his second goal with only 53 seconds remaining in the stanza to again tie the score.
The Rams again took the lead as Stewart netted a power-play goal with 10:43 elapsed. Once again, Oh knotted the score, this time with less than three minutes left in regulation.
However, when it counted, Slater came through, not giving Oh a chance. He took the pass from Guinette and ended the game at the 3:25 mark.
The victory for Pennridge sets up a semifinal meeting with top-seeded Downingtown East, the defending Flyers Cup and PIAA champion. The game will be played at Ice Line in West Chester on Thursday, March 14, at 6:15 p.m.
"The good thing about getting into Thursday is that we have not played a good two games," said Montagna. "We figured out a way to get by and survive.
"We're going to have to play our best game of the year. A lot of these guys have no idea what they're going to see with them. They've never watched them. It's a huge game."
It means a lot to Slater, a senior.
"We've never been there before," he said. "I've never been in my four years.
"We're looking forward to it. (We're) looking to play our best game and hopefully get a win."
Pennridge 4, North Penn 3 (OT)
North Penn 1 1 1 0 – 3
Pennridge 1 1 1 1 – 4
First period: 1, Nate Oh NP (Jared Albano) 7:39; 2, Eric Slater P (Frankie Rota) 9:36.
Second period: 3, Michael Walker P (Matthew Guinette) 1:03; 4, Oh NP (Jake Nelson) 15:07.
Third period: 5, Blake Stewart P (Slater, Rota) 10:43 PP; 6, Oh NP (Albano) 13:44.
Overtime: 7, Slater P (Guinette) 3:25.
Shots: NP 36, P 24. Saves: Nick Ebbinghaus (NP) 20, Luke Steranick (P) 33.