HATFIELD, PA –The La Salle Explorers are adding another trophy to the case after defeating Holy Ghost Prep on February, 27th in the Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference’s inaugural Founder’s Cup at the Hatfield Ice Arena. Despite dealing with unstable nets, the Explorers had little trouble cruising to a 6-3 victory.
The intensity was apparent from the get go and the scoring didn’t take long to come either, as Holy Ghost jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Sophomore Eric Pohl nabbed a breakaway pass from captain Alex D’Angelo and scored the opening tally only three and a half minutes into the game. The rest of the period was fasted paced fire wagon hockey with very few stoppages. The last stoppage was with just two seconds on the clock, for the tying tally from La Salle. It was junior Nathan Benner who scored with some help from sophomore teammates Sam Lipkin and Michael Casey.
It seemed as though momentum started to change for the Firebirds. They killed off an early penalty to open the second period, and then had a potential La Salle goal wiped off the board due to a dislodged net. The Firebirds then followed that up with a score of their own, this time with Evan Mudrick benefiting from a D’Angelo set-up taking a 2-1 lead.
That momentum quickly changed as La Salle gained control of the ice. The Explorers answered back with a power play tally from Fabrizio Mazzarelli on a quick shot on the left dot. Jan Olenginski and Lipkin both assisted on the play.
La Salle jumped out on the next faceoff and quickly scored again 10 seconds later only to see the official flying by and waving no goal. The fans became even more frenzied the second time around with another misplaced net resulting in no goal, and a penalty to the Explorers.
Then as luck often does, it turned. La Salle’s Zach Baker shot a pass over to Casey who threw the puck behind the Firebird’s net. The puck hit the glass and bounced the opposite way of the goaltender’s guess. Lipkin’s forecheck left him with some open net as he was the first man to the puck. The puck went it, the net came off but the goal stood. It was an emphatic moment, just 10 seconds after being denied a goal and assessed a penalty. After Lipkin’s shorthanded marker, it was the Explorers' show for the rest of the contest.
Goaltender Aiden McCabe was steady throughout the game, making 23 saves. Jan Olenginski scored the next goal, and Daniel Sambuco added another late in the 2nd period for good measure. After five straight goals the third period was one of catch-up for the Firebirds. Their pressure could not shake the steady play of La Salle, until they found themselves on the penalty kill. Then Holy Ghost Prep’s Alex D’Angelo took the goal scoring into his own hands, after taking an Eric Mark pass and ripping a blink and you missed it slap shot in to make the score 5-3. That hope was brief as La Salle’s Nathan Benner tallied the final goal, with assists from Collin Kleiser and Ryan Ferry.
First-period goals: EJ. Pohl (HGP) from Alex D’Angelo, 3:12; Nathan Benner (L) from Michael Casey and Sam Lipkin, 15:58.
Second-period goals: Evan Mudrick (HGP) from D’Angelo, 5:59; Fabrizzio Mazzarelli (L) from Jan Olenginski and Lipkin, 8:30 (pp); Lipkin (L) from Casey and Zach Baker, 9:10 (sh); Olenginski (L) unassisted, 11:06; Daniel Sambuco (L) unassisted, 14:37.
Third-period goals: Alex D’Angelo (HGP) from Eric Mark and Mudrick, 9:21 (pp); Benner (L) from Collin Kleiser and Ryan Ferry, 10:22.
Shots: HGP 26, La Salle, 34
Saves: Sean Joyce (HGP) 28, Aidan McCabe (L) 23
APAC SEMIFINAL LA SALLE 3, ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 1
HATFIELD, PA-- Before making it to the Atlantic Prep Athletic Cup winners circle, the Explorers faced defending Flyers Cup Champions St. Joseph’s Prep in the semifinal round of the APAC playoffs.
The two teams battled it out on February 25th, at the Hatfield Ice Arena with La Salle coming away with the 3-1 victory.
The Hawks came out fast in the first period. But the Explorers created an opportunity and a goal despite being on the wrong end of the puck control battle. Just over six minutes in, La Salle’s league point leader Sam Lipkin was able to jam in a rebound as the puck lay loose in front of the Hawks’ net. La Salle’s Michael Casey and Fabrizio Mazzarelli assisted on the goal.
“They clogged up the middle, they did a great job of doing that,” said La Salle head coach Wally Muehlbronner. “That took away our team speed a little bit, more than I would’ve liked but we stuck with it and scored some dirty goals which was good to see.”
The Explorers got themselves in a bit of hot water during the second period, taking a five-minute major penalty for cross checking, then tacking on an additional cross check towards the tail end of the major, resulting in a minute and a half of a 5 on 3 penalty kill.
While the Hawks’ power play was stagnant, La Salle succeeded on their second chance, with a goal from Lipkin assisted Casey and Olenginski. Despite time on the penalty kill, La Salle outshot the Hawks 22 to 12.
St Joseph’s Prep goalie Troy Stefano can be credited with 32 saves on 35 shots.
The Explorers were aggressive in the third period with their forecheck and kept the Hawks penned into their own end for the first half of the period. It was the game plan being executed according to Muehlbronner.
“Our focus coming out was play hard, get pucks deep on them and make them have to go 200 feet on us.”
With under 5 minutes left to play, the Hawks got on the board.
St. Joseph’s Prep’s Evan Cassidy blocked an outlet pass that found its way right onto his stick, then fired one past goalie Aiden McCabe. McCabe would finish the game with 14 saves on 15 shots.
The Hawks’ late flurry with the goalie pulled was ended when the puck was stolen and cleared by La Salle’s Andrew Budzynski, who chased it down and fired in the empty net to ice the contest.
The La Salle Explorers become the first ever APAC Founders Cup Champions and will look to carry that momentum into the Flyers Cup Tournament. Their first game will be March 14th against the winner of the March 6th contest between Holy Ghost, and Father Judge.