WEST GOSHEN >> Monday night all but told the tale of the season for the Boyertown ice hockey team.
The Bears got down early on, but quickly, calmly and effectively struck back as the night drew on.
Boyertown used five-unanswered goals to claim a 5-1 win over Perkiomen Valley in the semifinal round of the Pioneer Conference ICSHL playoffs at Ice Line in West Chester.
“We started off really slow this season,” said senior Chris Moccia, who added three assists to extend his point-streak to 10 games. “Coming into the season, we had a really young defensive squad, so we spent those first few games getting everyone up to game speed and playing together.”
Safe to say, the Bears got up to speed. By now, they’re together in full stride.
After starting the season a modest 4-5 in their first nine games, Boyertown (9-2-1 Conference, 10-8-1 overall) punched its second consecutive trip to the championship game with its fourth consecutive win. The top-seeded Bears will face Spring-Ford — a 7-4 winner over Owen J. Roberts in Monday’s other semifinal — for the championship back at Ice Line on Thursday night. It will serve as a rematch of last season’s thrilling championship bout, which Boyertown claimed 5-4 in overtime.
The Bears controlled the early possessions, but it was Perk Valley (3-8-1, 4-12-3) who came up with something to show in the early going. The PV offense found a crease and got behind the Boyertown defense. After they worked the puck around, Charlie Murphy slipped one past the Boyertown keeper off a feed from Will Green and Colin Kasiarz almost four minutes in.
The Boyertown bench was concerned, but certainly not panicked.
“Everyone was calm. They knew it was time to get back to business,” said Boyertown head coach Bryan Roth of getting behind early on. “We had a solid game plan for this. We came out and executed it well.”
Six minutes later, Casey Sottanella scored his first goal and it was all Boyertown from there. Dylan Marlowe gave the Bears their first lead – a glove-side twine-ripper 22 seconds into the second period off a feed from Sean Quinn.
Sottanella scored twice on the game to move atop the league’s scoring list with 24 goals. Sean McGinley finished with a goal and an assist as the Bears dominated the possession through the entire second and third periods.
Perk Valley was held to just one shot on goal during the final period – which was easily handled by Brandon Benson in the Boyertown goal for one of his 12 saves.
“As long as we were able to stay out of the (penalty) box, we were able to control the game,” said Roth. “PV has played us strong all season. We knew this one would be no different.”
Perk Valley keeper Hunter Thomas was a bright spot in goal, turning away 31 saves, including a pair of sprawled-out stops midway through the fourth quarter before Boyertown eventually blew the top off with a pair of goals in the final four minutes.
“He’s kept us in most of our games this season,” said PV head coach Harvey Friedland of his sophomore goalkeeper. “He’s been a big difference maker for us.”
Now having lost in consecutive semifinals, Friedland is looking toward the future of the program.
“Just give it some time,” he said. “Our team is young, we’ve just got to continue to grow together.”
Boyertown preps for another title game – that after the Bears claimed the inaugural conference title last winter. At the time unsure of whom they’d be matched up against, Roth explained that either way will be a stiff test.
“We’ll be up against a tough team either way,” he said, “but if we come in with our best game, we can match up with anyone. We’ll be ready for it.”
Spring-Ford 7, Owen J. Roberts 4 >> Colin Ward had sat idle long enough.
The Spring-Ford senior sat out the first eight games of the season dealing with injury. Then just two games into his return, Ward was handed a four-game suspension.
Think his team missed him?
Ward scored a pair of goals and added an assist during Spring-Ford’s 7-4 win over Owen J. Roberts in the semifinal round of the ICSHL playoffs at Ice Line in West Chester on Monday night.
“He was raring to go,” said Spring-Ford head coach Joe Palmer. “First game back in the playoffs and he put up two goals for us. That was huge.”
Aidan Cooley also finished with two goals and an assist while Thomas Freed posted three assists in helping No. 2 seeded Spring-Ford to set up a championship rematch with top-seeded Boyertown.
“It really came down to the end last season,” recalled Palmer of the championship game last year. “We’re looking to take care of business this time.”
Spring-Ford staked an early 4-0 lead as Ward and Cooley traded goal-scoring duties back and forth through the game’s opening 17 minutes. No. 3 seed OJR caught life during the second period where they scored four-unanswered goals of their own to even it up at 4-4 midway through the second.
Jacob Vitullo, Austin Mourar, Sam Diehl and Tyler Skomsky were responsible for OJR’s goals while Max Hunt finished with 21 saves in goal.
Spring-Ford answered back with a three-goal run over the final 22 minutes, taking advantage of the power play chances.
The Rams were 3-for-5 on power play chances, scoring two of their final three goals with the man-advantage.
Kevin Crist netted an unassisted goal to break open the tie game and Cooley added his second on a power play six minutes later to make it 6-4. Justin Pasquine iced it with an even-strength goal to make it 7-4 with 11 minutes to go.
Spring-Ford keeper Matthew Magee made 27 saves in the win.
The 2017 AA Flyers Cup playoffs kick off next Monday, March 6 with a play-in round. Seeded at No. 20, Perkiomen Valley will face off against No. 13 North Penn while Boyertown, the No. 14 seed, will face Garnet Valley. Seeded at No. 15, Spring-Ford will face No. 18 seed Truman.