HATFIELD TOWNSHIP— Two of the top teams in the Suburban High School Hockey League demonstrated Thursday night why they earned that distinction.
It was Pennridge that prevailed, by building a three-goal lead in the third period before hanging on to defeat North Penn 5-4 in a Class AA game at Hatfield Ice.
It was the fifth straight victory for the Rams, who improved to 5-1-1 overall and 4-1 in league play. The loss was first in league play for the Knights (5-2-1, 4-1) who saw a three-game winning streak snapped.
It was the second regular season meeting between the two teams, who played to a 4-4 tie in a. non-league encounter on November 9
Pennridge defenseman Jeff Manto scored his first goal of the season Thursday night. He said the win over an elite opponent was a signal to the rest of the league. “We’re trying to prove we’re the best team in the league,” he said. “We are trying to stand out.”
The first period featured close checking at both ends and limited offensive opportunities; the teams combined for just 14 shots. Nathan Oh opened the scoring for North Penn with 3:30 left in the period but it took Michael Walker just 21 second to respond for the Rams.
Michael White gave Pennridge a 2-1 lead just 30 seconds into the second frame, only to see Jake Nelson tie the game for North Penn just 51 seconds later. Manto’s shot from just inside the blue line during a power play put the Rams up for good with 3:35 left in the period.
Eric Slater scored his Class AA-leading 17th goal of the season 5:48 into the third period to put Pennridge up 4-2. But by that point, the Knights had demonstrated an ability to keep Slater and Walker more or less under control. Blake Stewart extended the Pennridge lead with 5:09 left and Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna was quick to point out the importance of having multiple offensive threats
“We were able to win on a night when they neutralized Eric and Michael,” he said. ” They got their goals but (North Penn) really did a good job neutralizing Eric and Michael.”
Having veteran goaltender Luke Stranick between the pipes didn’t hurt the Rams’ chances. “When you make mistakes, you don’t have to worry about them ending up in the net all the time,” Montagna said. “He’s the rock back there, he’s the given on our team.”
Trailing by there goals, the Knights were in no mood for a concession speech. Luke Van Why scored with 1:25 remaining and then, with their goaltender out, the Knights received a power-play chance when Manto drew a roughing call with 48 seconds left. Jared Albano beat Stranick at the 15-second mark and the Knights swarmed again following the ensuing faceoff before the final buzzer came to the Rams’ aid just as Tyler Greenstein, North Penn’s sniper-in-chief, was teeing up a shot from the high slot.
“The guys continued to battle to the very end,” said North Penn coach Kevin Vaitis. “We never give up. We got down 5-2 with a couple minutes left and could have easily packed it in, but the boys continued to battle.”
North Penn 1 1 2—4
Pennridge 1 2 2—5
First-period goals: Nathan Oh (NP) from Jared Albano and Will Hughes, 12:30; Michael Walker (P) unassisted, 12:51.
Second-period: Michael White (P) unassisted, :30; Jake Nelson (NP) from Josh Kaufhold,
1:21; Jeff Manto (P) from Nick Eissler, 12:25 (pp).
Third-period goals: Eric Slater (P) from Matt Guinette, 5:48; Blake Stewart (P) from Michael Walker, 10:51; Luke Van Why (NP) from Ryan Cunningham and Nelson, 14:35; Jared Albano (NP), from Tyler Greenstein and Oh 15:45.
hots: North Penn 26, Pennridge 27; Saves: Nick Ebbinghaus (NP) 22, Luke Stranick (P) 22.
By Rick Woelfel
LIKE WHAT YOU”RE READING? PROMOTE YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE ON Hockeyhappenings.wordpress.com. Contact us HERE