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Boyertown takes down Spring-Ford in OT to capture first Pioneer Conference title

WEST CHESTER >> Boyertown head coach Bryan Roth and his team knew what was on the line.

A win, and they’d be champions. A loss, and their stellar season would be for nothing.

Boyertown's Bransen Mackey, left, tries to control the puck with Spring-Ford's Christian Graff defending during the Pioneer championship game Thursday. (Sam Stewart - Digital First Media)

Boyertown’s Bransen Mackey, left, tries to control the puck with Spring-Ford’s Christian Graff defending during the Pioneer championship game Thursday. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

“A renewed focus,” Roth said before the game. “That’s what we need to bring into this one. No matter how many times you beat a team, the playoffs are a whole new game.”

Finding themselves down a goal with just over seven minutes left in regulation, the Bears once again renewed their focus, settled in and went on to take a 5-4 overtime win over Spring-Ford to win the inaugural ICSHL Pioneer Conference championship on Thursday at Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester.

Hunter Canestra finished the night with a hat trick, accounting for Boyertown’s game-winner just over two minutes into overtime. He also scored the Bears’ first two goals on the game. Bransen Mackey scored the game-tying goal with 6:41 left in regulation, and in the process extended his point streak to a conference leading 17 games. Chris Moccia added an assist to Canestra’s game-winner.

“It’s the championship game, I had to step it up,” said Canestra, a junior afterward. “Right before overtime, I was like ‘I’ve got to get this one.’ I knew it could come down to me.

Boyertown celebrates after Owen Sheppard's goal in the second period against Spring-Ford. (Sam Stewart- Digital First Media)

Boyertown celebrates after Owen Sheppard’s goal in the second period against Spring-Ford. (Sam Stewart- Digital First Media)

“I couldn’t ask for a better finish,” he added. “To be able to score three goals in the championship — it’s unforgettable.”

Boyertown’s Troy Viola earned the win in goal, finishing with 22 saves on 26 shots faced.

Mackey added a diving poke check on Christian Graff’s breakaway in the opening minutes of the overtime period to help preserve it.

The win improves Boyertown to 17-3-1, as they finished the season with an undefeated record in the Pioneer Conference (7-0-1).

The Bears beat Spring-Ford (12-7-1) in all three matchups during the course of the regular season, handing the Rams three losses in a matter of three weeks leading up to the title bout on Thursday.

Boyertown's Dominic DiCesare and Spring-Ford's Joseph Kearney battle along the boards for the puck Thursday. (Sam Stewart - Digital First Media)

Boyertown’s Dominic DiCesare and Spring-Ford’s Joseph Kearney battle along the boards for the puck Thursday. (Sam Stewart – Digital First Media)

Ryne Moore led Spring-Ford with a hat trick of his own, including the goal with 7:32 left in regulation to give the Rams’ their only lead of the night.

“We batted and never gave up against a great Boyertown team,” Moore said afterward. “We left it all out on the ice and that’s all we could ask for. I couldn’t be more proud of the team.

“We had a hard time shutting down Mackey and Canestra, but (doing that against) players with that much skill is very hard to do.”

Brandon Ernst accounted for Spring-Ford’s opening goal five minutes into the second period and later added an assist while Benjamin Geremski accounted for four assists and Jeff DiGuiseppe added another.

Spring-Ford’s Adam Panzarella made 30 saves in goal, allowing just five shots past.

Boyertown jumped out to a two-goal lead by the time the first period ended, with Canestra finishing on assists from Mackey and Cody Stephens.

“I’m so proud of these kids, said Roth. “We got out of our game  — maybe got a bit too confident with a two-goal lead. Once we took a timeout and reeled it back in, the result speaks for itself.”

Now both Boyertown and Spring-Ford will both shift focus to the Flyers Cup which gets underway March 2.

“Winning the title is a huge step for us,” said Canestra. “We’ll definitely enjoy this together but then we’ve got to get ready for Flyers Cup. That’s been our biggest goal for this season. We want to play our best there.”

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