PHILADELPHIA--The last three Philadelphia Catholic League finals have come down to the Father Judge Crusaders and the Cardinal O’Hara Lions. O’Hara has come away victorious in overtime the past two years, but this year’s final would be decided in regulation.
"Heading into the game the mindset of the team was to stay hungry the entire game and outwork them. Obviously, this being the third year in a row verses a very strong O’Hara club who beat us in OT the last two years, our senior-heavy team was ready for their turn to celebrate, and it was going to take a lot to stop them," said Father Judge coach Jim Morrison.
That was indeed the case as the Crusaders struck early in front of their home crowd at the Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia sending the crowd into a frenzy. Robert Werner got the tally less than two minutes into the game with an assist from Tom Scannell. The Crusaders followed that up with another quick goal from captain Dominic Corrado off of a duo assist from Kevin Rue and Jonathan Ritter which left O'Hara reeling. A third goal late in the period would prove to be the decisive winner and was scored by senior Cade McKee and assisted by Franklin Black and Matt Moser. O’Hara would have an uphill climb to draw the game close.
The second period saw the action fall into a lull of shot exchanges but without too many real scoring chances. The Judge defense was especially good at disrupting the O’Hara offense in the neutral zone and using their speed and puck skills to counterattack. This was on display in the lone goal of the period as defenseman Sean Melso took the puck end to end, and dished to as he was going around the opposing net to Kevin Rue in the slot who fired home the fourth goal of the contest.
The third period was more of the same until a thundering check from Melso which resulted in an injury that stopped the play for several minutes. After the stoppage the air seemed to be out of the room, even with an O’Hara goal by Nick McKay.
It wasn’t until a second O’Hara goal, in which Brendan McGroary with an assist from Gregory Diamond got it past Judge goalie Colin McKee. McKee managed 20 shots on goal during the contest.
O’Hara looked like they might run and gun their way to another overtime scenario. With three minutes on the clock, the Lions pulled their goalie to try and maximize their chances, but hope was quickly dashed. Corrado potted the empty netter and the celebration was just a few minutes away. When the clock hit zero the gloves were in the air and Father Judge was named PCL Champions in a 5-2 victory.
Morrison lauded his team’s performance.
"The stay hungry attitude was manifested in using our team speed to dictate the pace of play. O’Hara is well-coached and tried to slow us down. We used our speed, skill, and size advantage to play the game on our terms. Our first line of Rob Werner, Tom Scannell, and Joe Lombardo set the tone on the first shift with a goal and it just rolled from there and our depth in the Rue-Corrado-Ritter line contributed three goals as well,” said Morrison
“Having the game winning goal against O’ Hara meant everything to me,” said senior Cade McKee, whose brother sophomore goalie Colin shared the ice as gatekeeper.
“Coming out for that game my team was physically and mentally prepared and the strengths we had during the whole game was we stuck together, and we knew what we had to do to beat them. We played them in the championship for the past two years and lost in overtime both times so coming out and having a great start and putting that first goal in was huge," said McKee.
Both teams will play in the upcoming Flyers Cup. Father Judge will open up against Malvern Prep Thursday, March 5 and O'Hara will face St. Joe's Prep later that evening.
Morrison and his team know they will be evenly matched during the tournament but know they are ready for the challenge.
“For the Flyers Cup, we will be playing an opponent in Malvern Prep who can match our speed and pace, so we will need to elevate our team defense between the dots to shut down their high powered offense, while still pushing the pace and taking advantage of our opportunities up in the offensive zone,” said Morrison.
"The teams mindset going into the Flyers Cup is that we will play our hardest against those teams and we need to stick together because those games will be hard to win. Mentally we are ready to play and win the Flyers Cup because we all know that we can win," said the elder McKee.
Father Judge captains pictured (L) to (R) Dom Corrado, Sean Melso, Tom Scannell & Rob Werner holding Championship Trophy (photo- Kathy Leister for PSD).