Pennsbury captured the program's first ever SHSHL 2A title with a 7-4 win over Council Rock South. (Photos by Craig Ostroff)
By Craig Ostroff
#1 Pennsbury 7, #3 Council Rock South 4
For the current crop of Pennsbury players, Thursday night marked the culmination of four years of dedication and hard work to turn around the fortunes of their team.
For the program itself, the journey stretches back much further.
The top-seeded Falcons scored five straight goals through the second and third periods and used a solid defensive effort to defeat third seed Council Rock South 7-4 at Grundy Ice Arena to earn the SHSHL Class AA Championship (comprised of teams from the National and Continental Conferences). A team that has traditionally struggled, the trophy signifies the first SHSHL title in Pennsbury history and a historic ending to the league season.
“It’s hard to describe what this means,” said Pennsbury coach Ryan Daley, who, along with this year’s seniors, came on board four years ago in what was a rough first season but built the team up from the cellar to the penthouse. “For those seniors, what a transformation. They saw the worst of it and now they’re experiencing the best of it. We’ve never won a Suburban League championship. We’ve had some really talented teams in the past and just couldn’t get over the hump, and that just shows how special these guys are. This is our first championship (appearance) in 10 years and the first one we’ve ever won. I’m so proud for all these guys, and for the seniors to have put in so much hard work and to have it pay off like this.”
Having already earned two victories over the Golden Hawks, Pennsbury entered the finals with the same strategy that brought them success throughout a 10-2 regular season.
“We went into this game with the exact same game plan, shoot the puck often,” Daley said. “(Jimmy) Sweeney’s a hell of a goalie. We were telling the guys to get the puck in there, get in his kitchen and go after it. We scored some pretty goals tonight and we scored some garbage goals, and our defense really stepped up tonight as well.”
In a season loaded with outstanding performances, Pennsbury’s leading scorer Brendan MacAinsh was exemplary on this night. The sophomore standout had a hand in six of the Falcons’ seven goals, scoring four times and assisting on both of Shane Siegmund’s goals.
“We’re obviously very confident with our offense,” Daley said. “We have three or four players with more than 20 points, but we also have a really spread-out offense. All three lines have guys who are putting in meaningful minutes and putting up points. Brendan, Shane and Reece Millman have been great all year, but if they have an off-night, someone else is sure to be stepping up and filling in those roles.”
Freshman Logan Doyle kicked off the scoring on this night, poking home a beautiful crossing pass from Andrew Falkenstein on a rush. South knotted the score when Kyle Schneider scored from a tough angle on the rebound of a Bobby Gilbert shot.
The teams went into the first intermission tied at 1-1, though it could have been very different. Pennsbury goalie Marek Jorgenson made a fantastic save on a South breakaway in the opening minutes of the game, and Millman sacrificed his body to disrupt a Hawks pass on a two-on-one break to deny a scoring chance in the final minute of the opening frame.
Council Rock South took the lead less than a minute into the second period when Julian Wagenmann scored (Brennen Wright, Jeremy Purcell assists) in a scramble in front of the net, but MacAinsh and the Falcons opened the floodgates soon thereafter. The sophomore’s first of the game (Justin Marlin assist) tied the score at 2-2 just over three minutes into the second, then MacAinsh fired home the rebound of a long Millman shot from the point on a power play less than two minutes later to suddenly swing the momentum into the Falcons’ corner.
Siegmund tallied a shorthanded goal on a beautiful backhand finish on a breakaway in the final minute as Pennsbury built a 4-2 lead heading into the final period.
Two more quick goals from MacAinsh and the Falcons led 6-2 just over three minutes into the third. South responded with a pair of power play goals—one from Schneider in front of the net with a perfect feed from Wagenmann from behind the net, then another when Julian Sarne scored on the rebound of a Blaize Pepe shot—to make it a 6-4 game with 3:49 remaining.
But the Falcons would not let the Hawks get any closer. Siegmund iced the game when he floated a shot from just across the red line into an empty net with 59 seconds left in the game.
While the Falcons celebrated their first ever league title, Council Rock South is left to regroup and prepare for the next step. The Golden Hawks are ranked fifth in the Flyers Cup Class AA tournament and will host 12th-seeded Avon Grove on Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Hatfield Ice Arena.
For Pennsbury, as unparalleled as this title is in the program’s history, the coaches and players are hoping this is just the first of two trophies hoisted this season. Seeded second in Class AA, the team will now turn its attention to the Flyers Cup as well. The Falcons will host 15th seed Conestoga at 8:40 pm Tuesday at Hatfield Ice.
“We’re going to celebrate this until Sunday night, then practice Monday and work for Tuesday,” Daley said. “We’re looking forward to this. Our last two Flyers Cups, we played North Penn in the Suburban League playoffs, then got them again in the Flyers Cup. And last year we got Downingtown West and they were just phenomenal. I don’t even know the last time we played Conestoga. I think it’s going to be cool for the kids to play a new team and see some fresh faces.”
They said it:
Sophomore forward Brendan MacAinsh
What does this title mean to you and the team? It’s amazing, it really is. To come in as a sophomore and being able to be on a team like this is amazing. Our coaching was great, well-taught, lot of skill, we’ve been together so many years, when you’re together so long, you build the chemistry.
What was the game plan tonight? We were really focusing on our defense tonight. Our goals-against has been a little high lately, but we’ve been able to make up for it with our offense. But we were focusing on keeping them down.
In a season filled with inconsistencies for so many teams, Pennsbury has played steady, solid hockey. What’s been the secret? We really have great chemistry. We’ve been playing with each other since we were 10 years old, played together through middle school and now in high school. We’ve been playing together so long, I know I can trust everyone that they’re going to back me up and they know I’ll back them up.
How long do you celebrate this title and when does the focus shift to the Flyers Cup? Next practice. We’ll celebrate this till the next practice, and then we focus on the Flyers Cup.
Junior defenseman Reece Millman
What does this title mean to you and the team? My brother’s two years older than me and I remember always hearing stories about how the team was horrible, always getting smacked around by everyone in the league. To come out here, help change the program around, to do it for the seniors, it means a lot. And I hope to go back-to-back next year.
What was the game plan tonight? We were hoping to get a lead early. When we got that first goal we were hoping to build off of it, but unfortunately they scored, then they took the lead going into the second period. We came back (in the semifinals against Pennridge), so we knew we could do it again, we just really had to turn it up and that’s what we did.
In a season filled with inconsistencies for so many teams, Pennsbury has played steady, solid hockey. What’s been the secret? It is the chemistry. I’ve known these guys since second grade, we’ve played together a lot. I think that helps. So I think it’s our chemistry, plus we have a lot of skilled players and strong work ethic.
How long do you celebrate this title and when does the focus shift to the Flyers Cup? Tomorrow morning we’ll forget about this. Winning the title is really special, but this isn’t the only thing we want to accomplish. We’re gunning for the Flyers Cup. This is nice, but we want the whole thing. Tonight was great, but I’d much rather celebrate in the Wells Fargo Center.
Senior defenseman Jack Boyle
What does this title mean to you and the team? It definitely feels great, especially after my freshman year not being so hot. Climbing back and finally getting this is sweet, but now we’ve got bigger things to worry about with Flyers Cup. We’re not done yet.
What was the game plan tonight? South is definitely a great team but we knew if we played our game we could beat them. We just had to make sure we were going full effort all the time and if we kept doing what we needed to do in the defensive zone, we could beat them.
In a season filled with inconsistencies for so many teams, Pennsbury has played steady, solid hockey. What’s been the secret? I think a huge part is our chemistry, and we’ve been doing our best to stay safe on and off the ice. With everything going on with COVID, we’re trying our best to stay safe and not lose anyone or get shut down. We’ve been careful and we’re doing really well with that.
How long do you celebrate this title and when does the focus shift to the Flyers Cup? I’d say we’ll give them the night, then we’ve got to get back to work. This is a sweet one, but everyone on the team is ready. We’re determined right now, ready to keep it going. We’re don’t want to just be satisfied with the league title. We want to go get that other trophy.
Council Rock South 1-1-2 4
Pennsbury 1-3-3 7
First period: 1. Logan Doyle P (Andrew Falkenstein) 12:18; 2. Kyle Schneider CRS (Bobby Gilbert, Blaize Pepe) 6:16.
Second period: 3. Julian Wagenmann CRS (Brennen Wright, Jeremy Purcell) 16:12; 4. Brendan MacAinsh P (Justin Marlin) 13:40; 5. Brendan MacAinsh P (Reece Millman) PP 11:49; 6. Shane Siegmund P (Brendan MacAinsh) SH 0:56.
Third period: 7. Brendan MacAinsh P (Reece Millman, Colin Michalak) 15:33; 8. Brendan MacAinsh P (Eddie Bossler) 13:50; 9. Kyle Schneider CRS (Julian Wagenmann) PP 10:18; 10. Julian Sarne CRS (Julian Wagenmann) PP 3:49; 11. Shane Siegmund (Brendan MacAinsh) EN 0:59.
Shots on goal: Council Rock South 30, Pennsbury 37.
Saves: Jimmy Sweeney (CRS) 30, Marek Jorgenson (P) 26.