HATFIELD TOWNSHIP— After a long and arduous journey, Pennsbury has reached the mountaintop. Justin Marlin’s goal with 8:19 left in the third period was the game winner as the Falcons downed Pennridge 5-3 Tuesday night in the Class AA Flyers Cup championship game at Hatfield Ice.
It’s the third Flyers Cup title in school history and the first for the Falcons at the Class AA level.
Pennsbury (18-6), the fifth seed in the tournament, will face South Fayette, the Penguins Cup champion, for the state championship on Saturday in Pittsburgh.
Second-seeded Pennridge, the defending champion, finished the season at 16-6.
Brendan MacAinsh scored three goals and received the Bobby Clarke Most Valuable Player Award.
“That was exciting,” MacAinsh said of the win. “I’ve been waiting a long time for something like that.”
After a relatively quiet opening sequence, Shane Dachowski put the Rams in front 4:39 into the opening frame, off a feed from Tyler Manto.
Pennsbury goaltender Aaron McDaniel was busy in the opening session; Pennridge generated 12 shots in the first period while holding the Falcons to nine. One of those eight came on a shorthanded breakaway in the waning second of the period but Jacob Winston denied MacAinsh with just under nine seconds remaining.
The game’s intensity level picked up with 5:08 left in the second period when Marlin delivered a hard hit to Dachowski along the right wall in the Pennridge offensive zone. Dachowski stayed down on the ice for a time before being helped to the bench. He would return for the third period No penalty was called on the play and the tempo of the game picked up from there.
Less than two minutes later, Marlin assisted MacAinsh’s game-tying goal which came off a Pennridge turnover. With 75 seconds left in the period MacAinsh put his team in front with a slapshot from the right post that caught iron as it entered the net.
The third period featured the offensive fireworks that might have been expected from two teams that scored 37 goals between them in three previous meetings.
MacAinsh said the break after the second period to resurface the ice gave he and his teammates a chance to refocus.
“That break really helped us,” he said. “We’re usually gassed in the (second period). That break makes us come out on fire even more, every time.”
Evan Eisler extended Pennbury’s lead 2:35 into the period but Tyler Manto (during a power play) and Dachowski (during a shorthanded breakaway) scored goals 84 seconds apart to tie the game with 11:14 left in regulation.
Marlin’s goal, which came when he corralled a loose puck the Pennridge zone, proved decisive. The senior defenseman called Tuesday’s result a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an opportunity to move past disappointments.
“Especially being a senior here,” he said. “We’ve been close (but) this year we weren’t letting it go.
Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna credited the Falcons for their effort.
“They did what champions do,” he said. “We threw everything we had at them. And you know what? Props to Pennsbury and props to (McDaniel).
“I told MacAinsh after the game he’s as good a player that’s come through this league. He’s as good a leader that’s come through this league. If we’re going to lose to somebody, I’d rather lose to him.
Ice chips: The All-Tournament team included MacAinsh, Dachowski, Marlin, McDaniel, Colin Dachowski (Pennridge) and Andrew Falkenstein (Pennsbury)
Pennsbury 0 2 3—5
Pennridge 1 0 2—3
First-period goals Shane Dachowski (Pr) from Tyler Manto, 4:39
Second-period goals: Brendan MacAinsh (Pb) from Justin Marlin, 13:38; MacAinsh (Pb) from Marlin, 15:45
Third-period goals: Evan Eisler (Pb) from Andrew Falkenstein, 2:35; Manto (Pr) from James Rush, 4:22 (pp); Shane Dachowski (Pr) from Kevin Pico, 5:46 (sh); Justin Marlin (Pb) unassisted, 8:41; MacAinsh (Pb) unassisted, 16:59
Shots: Pennsbury 29, Pennridge 37; Saves: Aaron McDaniel (Pb) 34, Jacob Winston (Pr) 24