HATFIELD TWP. >> La Salle ice hockey reached the top of the mountain last season, winning the Flyers Cup and state title in class AAA.
With 15 seniors on the roster that went through it a year ago, there’s only one thing they want this season. The Explorers are looking to do it all again.
Thursday, they took their first step with a 13-0 win over Father Judge in two periods at Hatfield Ice.
“We won it last year and no one want to just let us win it twice,” La Salle senior forward Mike Klein said. “It adds more gas to the tank to do better and play harder. It’s motivation and also experience, we’ll do whatever it takes because it’s our last chance.”
Michael Redican led a balanced Explorer offense with three goals, all in the second period. PJ Breslow added two goals and Joseph Mancusco had two goals and an assist.
Austin Master had a goal and two assists for La Salle, which had nine different players score. The Explorers jumped on Judge early with Jack McDonough scoring 91 seconds in and La Salle up 3-0 before five minutes had passed.
“They came out ready to play our game and that was the objective, to come out and play hard and I was pleased,” Explorers coach Walter Muehlbronner said. “They were looking to move the puck and scored some nice goals. It was a good first game for us.”
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 10, 2017
La Salle won as the No. 3 seed in the Flyers Cup last year and entered this season as the favorite. The Explorers just look like an experienced team, with a lot of size and skill and four lines that can turn in a good shift.
Klein said the team’s greatest assets are its speed and its experience. There was a balance offensively Thursday, with some goals coming as a result of pinging the puck around the offensive zone and others as a result of a rush. Regardless, the pressure never stopped even as La Salle built a 7-0 lead after the first period.
“It was a good start to the tournament,” Klein said. “We don’t want to get into bad habits out there so we just want to keep playing and play a complete game.”
To that end, it meant getting back on defense even with a lopsided lead. Muehlbronner felt his team did a good job of that and credited the forwards for checking back and putting pressure on the puck past the offensive blue line.
Defenseman Tyler Pohlig spotted La Salle a 5-0 lead on a laser shot from the point after a couple of nice passes by Klein and McDonough set him up. Pohlig fired another shot wide a few minutes later that led to a left-side snipe by Michal DalFarra.
“There’s a lot of guys that have been in this position before,” Muehlbronner said. “They understand it’s a one-and-done tournament. If you’re not coming out and playing to the level where you’re supposed to be playing, it could be over pretty quick. They don’t want to see this season end until the last game of the season.”
Blueliner Ryan Baker scored a shorthanded goal late in the first period, then Breslow scored the first of the second also a man down. Redican followed Breslow for a 9-0 lead, then Breslow scored the 10th goal that put La Salle in position to end the night early.
La Salle will face No. 4 seed Malvern Prep, a 6-1 winner over Cardinal O’Hara, in the semifinals on Tuesday. That game is scheduled for a 7:30 start at Hatfield Ice.
“At this time of the year, you have to play hard for the duration of the game,” Muehlbronner said. “I was pleased to see they didn’t let up.”
Redican bookended two goals around a score by Mancuso to wrap up the evening for the Explorers.
It’s two titles or bust for this group of seniors and their first impression showed they’re focused on them.
“That’s what happens when you have a senior-heavy team,” Klein said. “You’ve been together for a bunch of years and the chemistry is just there. We just have to stay on course and play like we have.”
La Salle 13, Father Judge 0
La Salle 7 6 — 13
Father Judge 0 0 — 0
Goals: L – Jack McDonough (Joseph Mancuso, Mike Klein) 14:29, Austin Master (Tyler Pohlig, Michael DalFarra) 12:31, Mancuso 11:13, John McCuen (Master, Liam Kane) 7:21, Pohlig (McDonough, Klein) 6:36, DalFarra (Pohlig) 3:24, Ryan Baker 1:54, PJ Breslow (Sean Clifton) 14:48, Michael Redican (David Mester) 12:39, Breslow (Master) 11:38, Redican 8:39, Mancuso (DalFarra, McDonough) 6:09, Redican (Harrison Baker, Henry Kaechelin) 3:49. Shots: L – 30, FJ – 10.
Top Photo: La Salle’s Michael Klein takes a shot past Father Judge’s Keith Wiercinski during their Flyers Cup AAA tournament game on Thursday, March 9, 2017. (Bob Raines/Digital First Media)