Pennridge capped a near perfect season by capturing the programs first ever Pennsyvlania Cup with a double overtime win over Thomas Jefferson at Ice Line in West Chester. Photos provided courtesy of Tracy Valko. Check back for a gallery of photos.
(Photo courtesy of Adams Action Photography)
By Ben Reese
WEST CHESTER — Pennridge is the Pennsylvania state ice hockey champion!
Just like last Tuesday’s win over Council Rock South was the Rams’ first Flyers Cup championship, Saturday afternoon’s 4-3 overtime victory over Thomas Jefferson was their first state title.
It also puts Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna on top of the Montagna list for big victories over his two brothers. His are the first Flyers Cup and first state crown in the Montagna family.
However, Jeff couldn’t have reached that pinnacle if not for another pair of brothers, the Pico siblings. Kevin scored the winning goal in the second overtime period while Ryan stood on his head in goal, making amazing save after amazing save.
Kevin first. How did you score that goal?
“It just came out in front,” he said. “(I) turned around and shot after AJ (Savona) and Tyler Manto worked it down low. I shot and it went in. He (Manto) shot and it bounced out to me. I turned and shot.”
Remembering that Kevin is a sophomore, he was asked what could have passed for a rhetorical question: Biggest goal you’ve ever scored?
“Biggest goal I’ve ever scored,” Kevin echoed. “That’s probably going to be the biggest goal I’ll ever score in my hockey career.
“I feel amazing. State champions, you can’t get better.”
To set this goal up, you would have to go back to the third period. Pennridge was holding a slim 2-1 lead entering the period.
But Thomas Jefferson, which is some miles south of Pittsburgh, came back and tied the game and then took a 3-2 lead with slightly less than 9:30 left in the game. The Rams could have figured that the game was over, but they didn’t.
Manto took a pass from Colin Dachowski and scored the tying goal on the power play with less than six minutes remaining.
That meant overtime or, in this case, two overtimes. The first 17-minute extra period was scoreless.
The second was a bit sloppy. Both teams were very tired after playing 51 minutes of regulation and then another 17 in the first overtime.
The second overtime didn’t last the full 17 minutes. Kevin Pico ended it at the 6:59 mark with assists from Manto and Savona and the celebration began.
Montagna knew that his team could endure. He had confidence in their ability to come back.
“I told them that now you can play like you always do (after the Jaguars had tied the game),” Montagna said. “You don’t have to protect the lead.
“You worry about teams sitting back when you get a lead. They know it - they’re 17 minutes away from a state championship. It’s human nature to sit back a little. It was almost a bit of relief when they took that lead. Not a relief but they (Pennridge) knew they didn’t have to worry about overthinking stuff. They knew what they had in front of them.”
The team captain, Jack Lowery, wasn’t concerned when the Jaguars took the lead in the third period. He knew what his teammates could do.
“When they tied it and went up, there was not an ounce of panic on our bench,” Lowery said. “We were calm.
“We know that we’ve come back in multiple games before. Every championship game we’ve been in we’ve been down, and we’ve come back and we’ve won. There was never a doubt in our minds that we were going to come out on top in this game.”
Well, we’ve talked about Jeff Montagna and his brothers and Kevin Pico. But what about Kevin’s brother, Ryan?
“That was the game of his life,” said Montagna. “I’ve now coached easily 170 games with him as my goalie, not starting all 170. He was dialed in early. He wasn’t really giving up rebounds.”
In fact, Ryan faced 65 shots in the almost 75 minutes on the ice, many of them coming in rapid succession. And he stopped all but three of them.
How about we ask the player who has maybe seen more than the 170 games Montagna has coached with Ryan on his team, his younger brother Kevin.
“He was unbelievable,” Kevin said. “I’ve never seen him play that good in my entire life.
“Even the goals that went in hit off him. He was right there. He was there for every shot. He played his best game.”
To top everything off, Pennridge completed the season undefeated. Only a 3-3 tie against Council Rock South during the regular season stood between the Rams and perfection.
The Rams came out flying in the first period. Savona scored the first goal with only 1:13 gone in the period off an assist from Manto.
Lowery followed that up on the power play at the 9:41 mark. Aeryk Lehrhaupt got the assist on that one.
The Jaguars cut into the lead in the second period. Colby Bilski netted the goal at 10:10 on the power play.
Then came the third period. With 53 seconds elapsed in the period, the Jags thought they had scored the tying goal, but it was waved off because of an infraction.
Bilski netted his second goal at 3:17 of the third to tie the game up at 2-2. Lance Smith untied it for Thomas Jefferson at 7:31 with a power play goal, giving the Jaguars their first and only lead of the game.
But Manto tied it again at 11:38 on the power play with an assist from Colin Dachowski.
It stayed that way through the rest of the third period and the entire first overtime period. Both teams were starting to look tired.
In the second overtime, the Rams thought they had scored the winning goal at 10:20 but this one was waved off too.
However, the next one counted. Kevin Pico collaborated with Manto and Savona to end the game and bring the state title to Pennridge.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world right now,” Lowery said, “and no one can take me from that.
“I’ve said all year that, until this game in over, the job is not finished. The job is finally finished for us.
“That was a hell of a hockey team we played today. It really could have gone either way. We came out on top, played our game and that’s really all we can do.”
And that was enough to get the job done.
Pennridge 4, Thomas Jefferson 3
Thomas Jefferson 0 1 2 0 0 — 3
Pennridge 2 0 1 0 1 — 4
First period: 1, Andrew Savona P (Tyler Manto) 1:13; 2, Jack Lowery P (Aeryk Lehrhaupt) 9:41PP.
Second period: 3,Colby Bilski TJ (Lance Smith) 10:10 PP.
Third period: 4, Bilski TJ (Brett Smith). 3:17; 5, L. Smith TJ (Nick Stock, Bilski) 7:31 PP; 6, Manto P (Colin Dachowski) 11:38 PP.
First overtime: No scoring.
Second overtime: 7, Kevin Pico P (Manto, Savona) 6:59.
Shots: TJ 65, P 49. Saves: Billy Siemon (TJ) 42, Ryan Pico (P) 62.