Firebirds win to kick off APAC’s second season
By Rick Woelfel
HATFIELD — It was the sort of opener a player dreams about. Byron Hartley scored his team’s first goal and assisted on its next three as Holy Ghost Prep opened its season on Wednesday with a 4-1 Atlantic Prep Conference win over LaSalle at Hatfield Ice.
The victory didn’t erase the pain of the Firebirds’ last-second loss to LaSalle in the Flyers Cup semifinals last March. But it was a promising start to the new season.
“We just wanted to forget about last year,” Hartley said. “What happens in the past stays in the past. We told the younger guys it’s a good thing you guys didn’t know what happened last year because that just helps us get in the (right) mindset.”
Besides centering his team’s number-one line, Hartley wears the captain’s C. “I’m so proud of all of our guys,” he said. “We have a relatively young team this year and I couldn’t be prouder to be the captain and the leader of this team.”
The Firebirds were sharp in the early going but LaSalle netminder Aidan McCabe was sharp as well and kept them at bay until Hartley found the back of the net 5:47 into the opening period.
E.J. Pohl made it a 2-0 game when he added a power-play goal 19 seconds into the second frame and the score was unchanged when the teams left the ice at period’s end
Skating on fresh ice at the start of the third period, the Explorers (0–2, 0-1 APAC) found another gear. With not quite three-and-a-half minutes gone in the period Francis Ford launched a shot from the center of the slot. Firebird goaltender Sean Joyce made the save but Nolan Woudenberg put in the rebound.
It was suddenly a one-goal game with plenty of time remaining but the Firebirds answered back with 5:21 left in the game. Hartley won an offensive right-circle faceoff and drew the puck back to Evan Mudrick who beat McCabe with a one-timer.
Anthony Sparo finished the scoring with an empty net goal.
LaSalle (white uniforms) and Holy Ghost Prep (blue) line up for Wednesday’s opening faceoff. Courtesy of Holy Ghost Prep
LaSalle coach Wally Muehlbronner saw some things he liked in the loss. “Of the three games we’ve played so far, obviously the score isn’t what we wanted, but I think it’s the best we’ve played so far,” he said. “ I definitely see some positives. It was a loss but there were definitely some positives. It clearly points out how far we’re going to have to go We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us as a team.”
Holy Ghost Prep coach Gump Whiteside praised his players’ work ethic. “They’ve been working really hard,” he said. “In preseason ands getting ready for this game and getting ready for the season. We had all four lines going, all four lines contributing in one way or another. It was just fun to watch.”
Holy Ghost Prep 1 1 2—4
LaSalle 0 0 1—1
First-period goal; Byron Hartley (HGP) from Evan Mudrick and Anthony Sparo, 5:47
Second-period goal; Eric Pohl (HGP) from Hartley and Luke Panepresso, :19 (pp)
Third-period goals: Nolan Woudenberg (L) from Francis Ford, 3:26; Evan Mudrick (HGP) from Hartley, 10:39; Sparo (HGP)) from Hartley and Collin Keiser, 14:29 (en)
Shots; Holy Ghost Prep 21, LaSalle 22; Saves: Sean Joyce (HGP) 21, Aidan McCabe (L) 17
Records: Holy Ghost Prep (1-0, 1-0 APAC); LaSalle (2-1, 0-1)
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