Friday night marked the beginning of a new era in scholastic hockey in the Delaware Valley. At 7:38 p.m. the referee dropped the puck to begin the matchup between LaSalle and Holy Ghost Prep, the inaugural game of the new Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference.
A large, emotionally engaged crowd was on hand at Grundy Arena for the event.
The players on both sides rose to the occasion, particularly the Explorers, who got two goals from sophomore Sam Lipkin on the way to a 5-1 win.
Lipkin scored the first goal in APAC history at the 9:15 mark of the first period, beating Firebird netminder Sean Joyce. Brandon Leer made it a 2-0 game on a power-play goal at 13:19.
Lipkin said the Explorers (3-0 overall) were buoyed by their quick start. “Any game in this league can be important,” he said. “I think we just played really good overall.”
The Firebirds (0-1) hurt themselves in the first period by taking four minor penalties; Leer’ goal came while they were two men short.
“You don’t want to work on your penalty kill all that much in the first period,” said Holy Ghost Prep coach Gump Whiteside. “But we battled through, we got a couple scrapes and a couple bruises from it, but it’s a learning experience.”
It took the Firebirds just 10 seconds to respond to Leer’s goal. Byron Hartley scored to make it a one-goal game.
Michael Casey extended LaSalle’s lead when he scored at 9:54 of the middle period before Lipkin and Daniel Sumbuco scored goals in the third. The line featuring Lipkin, Casey, and Sambuco combined for nine points.
“We’re missing some key guys tonight (because of club commitments),” said LaSalle coach Wally Meuhlbronner, “so we needed a good push out of that top line that we had and then I think the other two lines did a great job. The fast start helped us and helped us settle in a little bit too.”
Whiteside looked at Friday’s game as a learning experience for his young team, which also had some players away on club duty.
“I was really happy with our group,” he said. “If you lose 10 seniors, it’s tough, but I love the makeup of our team. We’re going to be a good team.”
Notes: LaSalle had a 33-19 edge in shots. All APAC games will have a winner. If a game is tied after 48 minutes of regulation, a five-minute overtime will be played followed by a shootout if needed. The game was officiated by one referee and two linesmen.
LaSalle 2 1 2—5
Holy Ghost Prep 1 0 0—1
First-period goals: Sam Lipkin (L) from Daniel Sambuco and Michael Casey, 9:15; Brandon Leer (L) from Ryan Ferry and Andrew Budzynski, 13:19 (pp); Byron Hartley (HGP) from Alex D’Angelo, 13;29 (sh).
Second-period goal: Michael Casey (L) from Sambuco and Lipkin, 9:54.
Third-period goals: Lipkin (L) from Sambuco and Casey, 6:23; Sambuco L) unassisted, 14:58.
Shots: LaSalle 33, Holy Ghost Prep 19; saves: Aidan McCabe (L) 18; Sean Joyce (HGP) 28.