COLMAR >> Malvern Prep goaltender Matt Hollingshead got into La Salle’s collective head on Thursday in the semifinals of the Flyers Cup AAA Tournament, and very nearly helped engineer an upset of monumental proportions against the defending state champs.
The senior turned aside an astounding 52 shots at Hatfield Ice Arena and extended the top-seeded Explorers into overtime before finally succumbing, 3-2. La Salle (18-4-2 overall) will play Holy Ghost Prep for the title on Monday.
“Matt is just simply incredible,” said Malvern head coach Dave Dorman. “He is the best goalie I’ve ever coached and I have guys playing in the NCAA.”
The Friars (13-6-2 overall) were outshot 38-1 to start the contest, and fell behind 2-0. But Hollingshead kept them in contention, leading to the eyebrow-raising comeback. Moments after killing off a two-man advantage, Malvern got on the scoreboard midway through the second period when James Bell scored a shorthanded goal.
“We ask our guys to play a certain type of simple hockey, and I think they tried to complicate things early and play a brand that isn’t our style,” Dorman said. “Our strength is our grit and work-ethic.
“After we were down two goals, we had a friendly chat on the bench and they adjusted nicely. The ice then shifted a little bit in to our favor.”
The Friars’ Jake Swayze back-checked La Salle defenseman off the puck, which led to a two-on-one. Teammate Charlie Andress took the initial shot and Bell pounced on the rebound and found an opening.
Malvern then tied it up at the 8:14 mark of the third period on a rebound goal by Stephen D’Elia, with assists going to Nicholas Fantini and Nick DeSantis. The Friars had La Salle on its heels and outshot the Explorers 12-11 in the third. It was on to the OT.
“I was really proud of the boys for tying it up,” Hollingshead said. “We gave it everything we had. La Salle is a very skilled team and they sure came out firing.”
Just 51 seconds into the extra session, however, La Salle’s Joe Mancuso beat Hollinghead with a shot that hit the post and bounced in. It was his second goal of the day.
“Joe Mancuso is a great player. It was a perfect shot,” Hollingshead said.
“When Hollingshead is on his game, the way he can be, you don’t need many goals to win,” said La Salle head coach Wally Muehlbronner added. “He’s that good.
“I honestly didn’t know how we would score. We were just trying to keep it simple and throw pucks against the net and hope for a rebound — but he doesn’t give you much.”
Malvern actually scored a goal late in the second period that was disallowed due to a quick whistle. So in theory, the Friars could have actually won this one in regulation, even though they were outshot 55-25.
“The game-winner was a post-and-in, and truthfully, that’s the only way you are going to beat that kid,” Dorman said. “I can’t say enough about him.
“And I couldn’t be more proud of the way they battled back and stuck together. They represented our school with a ton of pride.”
It’s worth noting that Malvern has now lost to La Salle three times this season. The first was an 11-1 blowout, but the last two were one goal battles. The Explorers are the defending Flyers Cup champions.
“There is no bigger stage that the Flyers Cup and we never stopped believing,” Hollingshead said. “When the shots were 38-1 I was just trying to keep my team in it as best I could – that’s my job.”
La Salle scored a pair of first period power play goals by P.J. Breslow and Mancuso.
“(Mancuso) is an opportunistic guy and he’s always been that way,” Muehlbronner said.
La Salle 3, Malvern Prep 2 (OT)
Malvern Prep 0 1 1 0 – 2
La Salle 2 0 0 1 – 3
Malvern Prep goals: Bell, D’Elia.
La Salle goals: Mancuso 2, Breslow.
Goalie saves: Hollingshead (MP) 52, Affel (L) 23.