HAVERFORD >> Cardinal O’Hara coach Ed Banes wanted to balance his lines to start the season. He had a strong returning trio in All-Delco Liam McCanney, John Paul Ahearn and Zac Deemer and thought he could create more match-up problems if he split them up.
“We tried to shake it up a bit at the beginning of the year to see if we could get a little more depth to the lines,” Banes said. “But we went back to them, and they obviously produced.”
That they did. The McCanney-Ahearn-Deemer unit combined for 18 points in the Lions’ 8-0 PCL/Blue win over Archbishop Carroll at the Skatium Thursday night.
It wasn’t just that the top line scored so often in a blowout, it was how they did it. Jacob George made 60 saves in the Patriots goal. McCanney and co. had to be at their best — and they were.
The last of the eight markers may have been the best example of the line’s chemistry. With nine minutes left in the game, Ahearn chipped a puck around the boards in the Carroll zone to McCanney. Without looking, McCanney fired a backhand pass across the slot to a waiting Deemer, who beat George with a quick wristshot.
“We see the ice well,” said McCanney, who contributed two goals and four assists. “We know where each other is going to be and make it happen.”
They have clearly defined roles. Ahearn is a typical center, poised with the puck and aware in all three zones. He knows his best action is to create space and let the speedy McCanney fly into it. Deemer, on the other hand, is the grinder with scoring touch.
“He’s a work horse,” said Ahearn, who had a hat trick and three assists. “All he does is go to the corners and get us the puck and go to the net.”
He also scores. Deemer’s 12 goals lead the team. All of it means that McCanney, who has the ability to take over games, can play looser.
“With playing with them last year, I can give (the puck) to them,” said McCanney. “I know they’re going to score. I don’t have to shoot every time.”
Take Ahearn’s late second period goal for example. With the clock winding down, Deemer dumped the puck into the corner, where McCanney immediately raced to it. Watching from the blue line, Ahearn slid into the slot, knowing that McCanney would be first to the play. McCanney threw the puck in front, Ahearn made a move to his backhand and instead of it being 3-0 entering the third, it was 4-0. The line struck twice more in the first 1:01 of the final period to put the game away.
“They had a lot of chemistry tonight,” said Banes. “It looked good.”
It certainly was a good night. It may have been an easier one had it not been for George, who was spectacular for the Patriots (1-5, 1-5). He made 23 saves in the first period and, with the game well out of reach, 23 more in the third.
“He’s phenomenal,” said Banes. “He doesn’t quit. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him.”
George seemed to take glee in stopping O’Hara’s big guns. He flashed the leather on McCanney in the second period, going full circle with his glove after he made the save. George also slid to stop a McCanney one-timer with 4:19 to go in the third. There was a self-created sequence in the first period as well. George turned over the puck to McCanney then got back to his crease to rob Deemer.
“It’s one shot at a time,” said George of his saves total. “You can’t really keep count.”
“I always want to keep it one goal less,” he continued, “or keep the goal total where it is.”
That was a tough ask on a night the Lions (5-2, 5-2) were rolling. O’Hara has its eyes set on another PCL title and perhaps a Flyers Cup run as well. McCanney knows his group gets the credit, but this is a team with depth.
“We have three lines that can get it done,” he said, before adding, “but we lead by example.”
In the Central League:
Ridley 11, Harriton 2 >> Michael Giampapa scored four times to go with four assists as six unanswered second-period goals put Ridley beyond the reach of the Rams.
Linemates Brett Dunning (three goals, four assists) and Michael Desio (two goals, five assists) also had big days for the Green Raiders, who led just 2-1 after a period. Eric Miller and Anthony Smythe also lit the lamp for Ridley.
Ethan Milani set up Will DeVerter’s first-period marker and scored in the third period for Harriton.
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