Wissahickon Edges Pennridge in District Lacrosse Thriller (5-23-23)

Wissahickon edged Pennridge in a classic battle, earning a spot in Thursday’s District 1 3A semifinals. Pennridge remains alive in the quest for a state title berth. Photos provided courtesy of Tracy Valko. Check back for a gallery of photos: https://solsports.zenfolio.com/f900124885

District 1 3A quarterfinals

The Trojans punched their ticket to the state tournament with their win in Tuesday’s thriller. It’s a scenario they admit they wouldn’t have predicted when the season began.

“We went to states two years ago, and going into the season, we didn’t have many expectations because we lost a lot of seniors from last year,” senior Nick Donofrio said. “We weren’t looking to go this far – maybe get a first round district game or a second round game.”

The Trojans are moving on because they edged the third-seeded Rams on their home turf. Donofrio scored the game-winner on an underhand scoop shot with 1:14 remaining in regulation.

“Our whole offense – everyone kept shooting,” Donofrio said. “Everyone let it fly, so I saw I had a chance, and I finally took it. My guy was kind of sloughed behind me. There was nobody really on the crease defending., so I kind of just took it.

“We had a lot of shots the entire game. We were hitting pipes, over the net, the side of the net, hitting people. The whole team was just due for a goal.”

The final minute-plus was not without its anxious moments. The Rams saw a pair of shots go high, and Trojan goalie Kyle Crump delivered his 10th and biggest save with 11 seconds remaining and heaved the ball down field as time expired.

“Our goalie made some key saves – I think his two best games so far have been his last two games,” Trojan coach Matt Conway said. “He’s a sophomore and he’s come up big.”

No one would have blamed the Trojans if they had come up short in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. They had excuses galore. They were already without faceoff specialist Dominic Kemper, who was injured in the team’s late-season win over Conestoga, and they lost Matt Bauer – the team’s lone returning defenseman from last year - to an injury late in the first half of Tuesday’s game.

“We’re losing a lot of guys, but I feel like as a team we can come together and fight through everything,” Donofrio said. “Honestly, I think it was who wanted it more really.

“We had our best defender (Bauer) go down right before the half, so we kind of knew the second half was going to be a war. We all just told each other we had to dig deep and really fight through it.”

The loss of Bauer left Conway with a major hole to fill.

“It was a total scramble job – we had to duct tape it together somehow,” the Trojans’ coach said.  “The midfielders are running both ways, and they’re gassed. They just figured out a way. They just dug deep.

“We had a bunch of guys come up in key moments. They pulled together, they have a lot of guts – that’s probably the best way to put it. The kids deserve a ton of credit. They were awesome.”

Early on in Tuesday’s game, it was Donofrio jumpstarting the Trojans with a pair of goals to spot the visitors an early 2-0 lead.

“Honestly, (it was) just being in the right place at the right time,” Donofrio aid. “Also, the past three games I have been in kind of a slump, so it felt good. I felt like I was kind of due.”

“He’s come through in big moments,” Conway said of Donofrio. “Conestoga he scored a huge goal late. Upper Dublin he scored a huge goal late. He just has a knack for coming up big in the biggest moments when we need to.”

The Trojans, who led 5-2 late in the first half, took a 5-3 lead into halftime only to see the Rams – behind a 4-2 third quarter - rally to knot the score 7-7 heading into the final quarter.

“The third quarter they came out and kind of punched us in the face there,” Conway said. “Somehow we were able to rebound and have some good possessions and figure out a way to win.”

A goal by Andrew Slackman put the Trojans on top 8-7 but not for long. Less than a minute later, Levi Souder turned a pass from Ryan Carickhoff into the equalizer. With five minutes remaining, Kyle Lehman scored to put the Trojans on top 9-8.

Lehman’s four goals and one assist led the Trojans.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Conway said. “We ask him to do literally everything – face-off, play defense, initiate our offense. He’s beat up at this point, playing with bruised ribs from the last playoff game. I don’t know how me makes it through a game honestly.

“We know people are going to go to him all the time,” Donofrio said of Lehman. “Obviously, if he has the shot, he’s going to take it, but he’s really good at keeping his head up and moving the ball. I think the rest of our team really capitalizes on that.”

The Rams knotted the score 9-9 on a goal by Carickhoff with 4:30 remaining, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.

In the absence of Kemper, the Rams dominated play at the faceoff X. Ben Souder won 14 of 17 faceoffs.

“Will Hussa and Danny Hussa are brothers and they’re hockey players - neither of them have faced off before,” Conway said. “Once Dominic went down, we’re just throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what sticks. There’s no secret. They’re just tough and they’re battling.”

The Trojans' coach went on to credit the play of his shorthanded defense.

"Gavin Myers didn't come off the field," Conway said. "I'm looking at him and being like, 'Hey, are you good?' Even though he's not good he's saying, 'Yes.' He is so big for us."

In addition to Lehman’s four-goal effort, Donofrio had a hat trick and Slackman had two goals. Kyle Doll added one goal and Myers had an assist.

For the Rams, Carickhoff had two goals and one assist, and Drew Ferguson also had two goals. Adding one goal and one assist were Matt Kriney, Levi Souder, Matt Seiler and Kevin Matthews. Rocco Fanelli had one goal, and Frank Fanelli had two assists.

Pennridge goalie Tyler Vandermark had 15 saves.

“Their goalie is really good, really tough to solve,” Conway said. “I feel like he came up with a ton of really good saves on us. I knew that coming in – he’s just a big dude.”

Wissahickon (14-5, 11-3 SOL) will travel to second-seeded Springfield-Delco for a semifinal contest Thursday (7 pm). Pennridge will host Conestoga Thursday in a battle for a state berth.

Wissahickon    2-3-2-3.  10
2-1-4-2.   9