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Percival stands tall as O’Hara moves closer to PCL Blue title

HAVERFORD >> The cap to the evening came 1:11 into the third period. Cardinal O’Hara’s Zac Deemer chipped a John Paul Ahearn pass through the neutral zone and raced onto a breakaway. He made a forehand-to-backhand move and slid the puck five hole on Archbishop Ryan goaltender Kevin Flynn. The marker gave the Lions a three-goal lead on their way to a 5-2 win. It also came shorthanded on a night O’Hara went 8-for-8 on the penalty kill.

“It wasn’t ideal, killing penalties,” said O’Hara coach Ed Banes, “but I thought our guys bought in.”

The Lions, in one sense, were playing shorthanded from the start. All-Delco forward Liam McCanney was serving a one-game suspension for accumulating 50 minutes in penalties on the season. To make matters worse, Deemer, who entered the night with 20 goals and 44 points, missed the start of the second period after he took a big hit in the first.
Still, it didn’t phase O’Hara, nor did the seemingly endless trips to the box. The Lions stayed composed and lived by the hockey cliché, “Your goaltender must be your best penalty-killer.” Troy Percival made 18 saves across the first two periods and was particularly stellar in the second.

“Everyone was letting me see the puck,” Percival said. “Any shots from the point, I saw. It made it a lot easier.”
Maybe easier, but not easy. Percival got a good look at Vance Brown’s breakaway in the second period, which he turned away. Then there was a sprawling glove save with 4:50 to go in the frame, and an elastic kick save to deny Anthony Hearn. The sophomore made life difficult for the Raiders, who only managed to beat him in the opening 32 minutes with a Mark Cirelli deflection off the rush.

“I’m not big,” said Percival. “You have to challenge a lot more, get out on the shots, take up a lot more of the net.”

His stalwart effort allowed O’Hara to settle into the contest, despite the rash of whistles. Ahearn had given the Lions a 1-0 lead earlier in the first and Jacob Pohlig restored it midway through the second. Most of Percival’s best saves came between those goals.

“You can feel it from the crease out,” said Banes. “The whole team is starting to feel more and more confident. Not to say he hasn’t been great all year, but the last couple of weeks, he’s really started to come into his own, playing confidently.”

With a boost from the netminder, O’Hara took advantage of its power plays in a way Ryan couldn’t. On a five-on-three, Justin Boornazian played catch with Matt Beck at the blue line before firing a wrist shot past Flynn. That made it 3-1.

Deemer’s first goal followed to start the third. He added another, again assisted by Ahearn, to close the Lions’ scoring. Tyler Giwerowski pulled one back for the Raiders (13-3, 10-2 PCL Blue), but it was merely consolation.

The Lions (14-3, 11-1) produced a complete effort on a night they needed one with the top spot in the league on the line. Their top scorers — Ahearn and Deemer — found the back of the net. Their leaders, like captain Boornazian, showed poise during a whistle-heavy affair. And their goaltender was outstanding. A victory over Father Judge on Thursday would clinch a Philadelphia Catholic League Blue regular season title for O’Hara.

“We think we’re the best team in the Catholic League by far,” said Boornazian. “As long as we’re playing as a team, no one can really stop us.”

“We had a lot of things go wrong tonight: injuries, suspensions, penalties,” said Banes. “Everybody just did their job.

That’s what we’ve been preaching all year. I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

In nonleague action:

Owen J Roberts 7, Garnet Valley 6 >> The Jaguars tallied three unanswered goals in the third period to tie it, but the comeback came up short as Bronson Kilroy scored 2:32 into overtime to win in the the Wildcats.

Nicholas Port had one goal and one assist in the third period and Zachery Good added two assists to help Garnet Valley erase a 6-3 deficit. Joseph Shull netted the equalizer off feeds from Goode and Simon Abukasis with 3;17 left in the period.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Kilroy collected his lone point of the night to win it.

Port finished with two goals and one assist. Shull and Matthew Wood added one goal and one assist each for the Jaguars. who trailed 5-1 midway through the second period.

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