WARMINSTER >> Jack McKeever said that if there’s a year for William Tennent to make a deep run in the Flyers Cup, this is it, and the Panthers played that way Wednesday night in their tournament opener.
McKeever scored two early goals, goalie Eric Lineman had a shutout going into the third period and made 23 saves in all, and fourth-seeded William Tennent carved out a convincing 5-1 victory at Bucks County Ice, advancing to a quarterfinal showdown Thursday night against No. 5 Haverford, a 7-2 winner over No. 12 Pennridge, back at Bucks County Ice for a 7:10 faceoff.
“Normally we come out flat but tonight we brought it,” said McKeever. “The big start was huge. We’re not used to it — normally we’re playing from behind but we came out strong, scored the first couple goals of the game and it worked out.
“This is a great way to kick it off here, with a nice win on our home ice. We’re trying to continue that into (Thursday) night.”
Tennent controlled the puck in the early going, with McKeever opening the scoring four minutes in, off an assist from Sean Ovington.
Just a few minutes later, McKeever broke free and scored on a breakaway, a pass from Christopher Kreider getting the whole thing started, and the Panthers were quickly in front 2-0.
“It energized everybody,” McKeever said of the fast start. “It brought us together. We had confidence from the start but that really said ‘OK, let’s push it through.'”
The Panthers weren’t done.
North Penn actually held a 7-6 edge in shots midway through the period, but Tennent was dominating on the scoreboard, the margin climbing to 3-0 when Stephen Skiba put one away top shelf.
Midway through the second period, Tennent got an added boost from Lineman when he came up with a nice kick save on a breakaway by Andrew Galetta, trapping the shot underneath his right pad and keeping the score at 3-0. To that point, it was the Knights’ best chance to dent the scoreboard.
“They did a nice job defensively shutting us down and Eric played really well for them in net,” said Knights coach Kevin Vaitis. “They played a solid game all around.”
North Penn put together a strong stretch in the third, making it 3-1 on a goal by Corey Stouffer with 10 minutes to play. There was still time.
“Unfortunately we got behind the eight ball, getting behind 3-0 in the first, but we continued to battle and got one early in the third,” Vaitis said. “We had a couple power plays in there, just couldn’t capitalize on them.
“We mixed up the lines a little bit (in the third), just to try to get some offense going. And it seemed to spark us a little bit there but (Tennent) did a nice job defensively.”
The Knights created some tension late but the Panthers put it away with a goal by Ovington with 1:27 to go and an open-netter by Jared George provided the final margin. Caleb Floyd faces 38 Tennent shots, saving 33.
“We have a couple guys graduating but we do have the majority of our team coming back,” Vaitis said. “We’ll get back at it in the summer, heading into September. Up front, defense, a couple guys coming up from middle school – we should have a real, nice solid team next year.”
For a veteran squad like the Panthers, their time could be now.
“Ten seniors on the team – it’s unreal, the kind of chemistry we have in the locker room,” McKeever said. “I believe.”
Top Photo: William Tennent’s Anthony Anzideo blocks North Penn’s Corey Stouffer from taking a shot during their Flyers Cup AA second round game on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)