By Rick Woelfel
HATFIELD TOWNSHIP— The postseason is a different animal. That point become apparent when La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep took to the ice Monday afternoon in the Atlantic Prep Athletic Athletic Conference Founders Cup semifinals at Hatfield Ice.
The top-seeded Explorers had to work hard to secure the 3-1 victory over the Hawks to earn a place in Wednesday’s inaugural Founder’s Cup final. LaSalle’s opponent in the final will be longtime rival and third seed Holy Ghost, a 4-1 win over second seed Malvern Prep in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
Game time will be 4:00 at Hatfield Ice.
LaSalle (19-6) had beaten the fourth-seeded Hawks three times during the regular season, but the the two teams skated on fairly even terms on Monday.
“I think (the Hawks) played a really good game,” said LaSalle head coach Wally Muehlbronner. They clogged up the middle and did a great job of doing that. That took away our team speed a little bit, more than I would have liked, but we stuck with it and scored some dirty goals, which was good to see.”
Sam Lipkin gave LaSalle a 1-0 lead when he scored off at the 6:04 mark of the opening period.
The key sequence in the game however, commenced 2:24 in to the second frame when LaSalle’s Daniel Sambuco drew a five-minute major penalty for cross checking in the midst of a pileup at the Hawks’ net that resulted in an injury to St. Joseph’s Prep’s Matt Moresco (who later returned to the game). A few minutes later, LaSalle’s Byron Evans drew a minor penalty for cross checking, forcing the Explorers to play two men short for 1:29. But they escaped both penalties unscathed.
“I think we maybe gave up two or three shots in the five-on-three,” Muehlbronner said, “and had some tremendous offensive opportunities during it as well. I was really happy with the way we killed penalties.”
St. Joseph’s Prep coach David Giacomin looked back on the missed opportunity. “It’s a shame,” he said, “because we worked on the five-on-threes in practice quite a bit, just in case we got a chance. The sad part is, we didn’t get enough puck movement today to even get scoring opportunities. I think that would have maybe changed the tide of the game.”
Lipkin extended LaSalle’s lead when he scored a power-play goal off a deflection with 3:57 left in the second period.
But the Hawks kept battling and they finally got on the scoreboard with 4:21 left in the third period when Evan Cassidy beat LaSalle netminder Aidan McCabe on a shot from the high slot off an Explorer turnover. The Hawks kept the pressure on the rest of the way but couldn’t score the tying goal.
Andrew Budzynski accounted for the final margin when he scored into an empty net with a long shot from the neutral zone just before time expired.
Notes: LaSalle had a 35-15 edge in shots. The Explorers are seeded first for the Class AAA Flyers Cup while the Hawks will be seeded sixth.
St. Joseph’s Prep 0 0 1—1
LaSalle 1 1 1—3
First-period goal: Sam Lipkin (L) from Michael Casey and Fabrizzio Mazzzarelli, 6:04
Second-period goals: LIpkin (L) from, Casey and Jan Olenginski, 12:03 (pp)
Third-period goals: Evan Cassidy (SJP) unassisted, 11:21; Andrew Budzynski (L) unassisted, 16:00 (en)
Shots; St. Joseph’s Prep 15, LaSalle 35; Saves: Troy Stefano (SJP) 32, Aidan McCabe (L) 14
Holy Ghost Prep 4, Malvern Prep 2—Colin Costello scored two goals as third seeded Holy Ghost Prep bested second seed Malvern Prep 4-2 on Wednesday in the other Founders Cup semifinal at Ice Line.
Jack Kelly’s goal gave the Firebirds a 1-0 first-period lead. Costello scored with 2:36 left in the middle period to extend his team’s lead and added his second goal 2:56 into the third.
Kenny Conners scored for the Friars with 2:28 left in the game before Evan Mudrick finished the scoring with 1:36 left.
Sean Joyce got the win in goal, making 25 saves.