Reflections on a State Championship

   They reached the mountaintop and came home with a state championship. 

Malvern Prep’s 4-2 win over North Allegheny in Saturday’s Class AAA Pennsylvania Cup finale was the culmination of a season’s worth of dedication, not only on the ice but, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, off the ice as well.

Junior Quinn Dougherty scored his team’s first goal, a shorthanded effort that tied the game at 1-1 7:09 into the first period. Dougherty felt that goal was the turning point in the game.

“I thought that was probably a huge goal,” said. “We were down 1-0, we were on a penalty kill, things weren’t really going out way.

“Then we scored on the penalty kill and that just gave us a bunch of life because it was a hard-work goal and it just showed we weren’t going to quit right away.”

Senior Ryan Sambuco, one of the Friars’ captains, says the championship game’s up-tempo pace worked to the Friars’ advantage. “We played the game we wanted to,” he said. “We pretty much kept it simple, getting pucks in deep and shooting low for rebounds That’s how we scored all our goals.

“I think did very well managing the other team and playing to their weaknesses and our strengths.”

Senior Matt Donatucci said the Friars picked up their game after a slow start. ”There were times we were playing sloppy,” he said, “but I think at the end of the second we definitely talked it out. We realized that we kind of had to sacrifice and played our game. I think after that we were probably smooth sailing from there.”

For Donatucci, winning the state championship marked the conclusion of a long journey. I’ve been here for seven years,” he said, “since middle school. I’ve been playing hockey the whole time. Going out on top has been awesome I’m friends with almost every guy in the locker room. It’s just a great group of guys.”

Sambuco saluted his teammate, senior defenseman Chris Blango, for his contributions to the team’s success. Blango didn’t dress for the Flyers Cup final against La Salle or for the state championship game because of injury.

“He brought to where we were, in the playoffs and everything,” Sambuco said. “Being a captain of the team, also being our number one defenseman throughout the regular season and everything, being on the bench as well. 

“He did everything to contribute to the boys. He was out there talking. He was almost like another coach on the bench.”

Malvern Prep 4, La Salle 3 OT

WEST GOSHEN— It was the game that high-school hockey enthusiasts hoped it would be. Jimmy Jacobs scored 1:39 into overtime to give Malvern Prep a 4-3 win over La Salle Monday night in the Class AAA Flyers Cup final in front of an energized audience at Ice Line.

Jeremy Jacobs set up the winning goal when he split two La Salle defenders and got off a quality shot. Explorer netminder Liam Gross made the save but Jimmy Jacobs put the rebound in the back of the net.

The win gave the Friars the 11th Flyers Cup title in school history and their first since 2005. It also qualifies them for the Pennsylvania state championship game on Saturday. The Friars will face North Allegheny at the UPMC Sports Complex in Cranberry, PA, near Pittsburgh (4:30 start).

“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Jimmy Jacobs said. “It’s great that we finally won.”

The two top seeds in the tournament delivered a performance fitting for a championship final. Top-seeded Malvern Prep (14-1) got off to a fast start when Jacobs sailed up the right wing and sent a pass to the middle of the ice for Ryan Sambuco who beat Liam Gross 2:42 into the first period.

Jack Constabile made it a 2-0 game at 6:08 when he collected a turnover at the Malvern blue line and went the length of the ice before scoring on a breakaway.

La Salle (10-5) responded when Jake Hannon scored the evening’s only power-play goal at the 10:05 mark after the Friars were whistled for having too many men on the ice. They tied the game 3:12 into the second frame when David Kimmel scored directly off an offensive left-circle faceoff, surprising Malvern Prep goaltender Anthony Perti in the process.

Jimmy Jacobs put the Friars back in front at the 12:37 mark, but it took Hannon just 10 seconds to respond. That was the last goal until the game winner.

As disappointing as the loss was, La Salle head coach Wally Muehlbronner knew his team had much to be proud of.

“We got ourself in a little bit of a hole at the start,” he said. “We battled back, kind of the way we’ve been playing throughout this year; we grew together as a team.”

Muehlbronner praised both goaltenders, who made 78 saves between them. “Gross made some tremendous saves,” he said. “Perti made some great saves. “It could have wen either way a couple times. Both teams battled hard.”

Sambuco, one of his team’s captains, said winning the Flyers Cup was the climax of a career of effort. “We’ve been through the grind for four years,” he said. “And especially for a few of the guys (whose fathers and uncles played hockey for Malvern Prep). It’s special for us to get that cup finally.”

Ice Chips: The Friars’ Matt Harris was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player … Chris Blango, the Friars’ top defenseman and one of their captains, didn’t dress because of an injury … The game featured just three minor penalties, all against the Friars. The last one was called at the 10:28 mark of the second period …The Friars have won three of four meetings from the Explorers this season They could meet a fifth time if the postponed Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference championship game is rescheduled …La Salle was attempting to become the first team to defend a Flyers Cup AAA title since the Explorers won the last of four in a Row in 2014.

La Salle 1 2 0 0—3
Malvern 2 1 0 1—4
First-period goals: Ryan Sambuco (MP) from Jimmy Jacobs, 2:42; Jack Constabile (MP) from Jimmy Kirk, 6:08; Jake Hannon (L) from Max Maddalo and Andrew Budzynski, 9:47 (pp)
Second-period goals: David Kimmel (L) from Michael Casey, 3:12; Jeremy Jacobs (MP) from Aidan Kelly and Constable, 12:37; Hannon (L) from Maddalo, 12:47
Overtime goal: Jimmy Jacobs (MP) from Jeremy Jacobs and Sambuco, 1:39
Shots; La Salle 41, Malvern Prep 44; Saves: Liam Gross (L) 40, Anthony Perti (MP) 38