St. Joseph’s Prep 2 La Salle 0

HATFIELD TOWNSHIP— The evening’s festivities didn’t feature an abundance of artistry. The matchup between St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle was a gritty, grind-it-out hockey game between two foes intimately familiar with each other.

It was Hawks who emerged from the scrum victorious by a count of 2-0 in a Class AAA semifinal Wednesday night at Hatfield Ice. 

Jeffrey Hammond scored both goals to propel the third-seed Hawks (10-8-1) into next week’s final against top-seeded Malvern Prep. The junior spoke to the level of familiarity between the Hawks and the Explorers, who are traditional rivals in every sport.

“All the videos of our games are on You Tube,” he said. “All the players and coaches watched a lot of our games, over and over again and we picked out what we needed to do to come out with a win today.”

Hammond said all the preparation paid off. “We definitely came prepared,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Everyone expected it. Everyone played like they had to to get the job done.”

Hammond gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead 4:27 into the first period when he scored off a scramble in front of the La Salle net, beating Explorer netminder Will Braun. The early goal set the tone.

Jeffrey Hammond scores the game’s first goal.

“We knew going into it that they’ve got the speed,” said St. Joseph’s Prep coach David Giacomin said  of the Explorers. “They are strong, they like to bang the body.

“I told them as long as we keep them on the outside, don’t give up the little gritty goals, take away the behind the net,  we would have a chance. 

“We were lucky enough to get two good goals early, and they had to play catchup, which is hard to do.”

Hammond scored a statement goal for the Hawks 8:31 into the second session. With his teammate Nick Storti serving a two-minute sentence for a slashing infraction, Hammond found space on right wing  and beat Braun with a wrister.

That was it as far as scoring was concerned, although the game’s emotional temperature remained at a fever pitch.

Jeffrey Hammond scores his second goal of the game.

But try as they might the second-seeded Explorers (8-9-1) couldn’t find a way to sustain momentum in their offensive zone or solve Hawks’ goaltender Rocco Bruno who finished with 26 saves.

“We just couldn’t seem to get any bounces or any momentum going,” said La Salle coach Wally Muehlbronner. “I think the shorthanded goal we gave up really hurt us.

“I think St. Joseph’s Prep played a great game. They were opportunistic. They played a really good game.”

Emotions boiled over in the late going. With 1:38 left in the third period La Salle’s Chase Hannon was called for elbowing before being accessed three additional penalties, resulting in his banishment.

A series of penalties with 36 seconds left resulted in the teams finishing the game with three skaters each on the ice although La Salle had already pulled Braun to add an extra skater.

St. Joseph’s 1 1 0—2

La Salle 0 0 0—0

First-period goals: Jeffrey Hammond (SJP) fro Joey Samango and Christian Short, 4:27

Second-period goals: Hammond (SJP) unassisted, 8:31 (sh)

Shots: St. Joseph’s Prep 20, La Salle 26; Saves Rocco Bruno (SJP) 26, Will  Braun (L) 18

Video provided by Erin Schneider

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