ASTON >> Three years ago, Haverford winger Alex Gattone was 12, watching his older brothers John, a senior, and Dante, a freshman, celebrate a Central League title.
“It was a really great time,” said Alex. “They were both really happy. They came home screaming.”
Wednesday night, the youngest Gattone, now a freshman, added his own chapter to that postseason success. And like in 2015, it was a sibling celebration: Alex and Dante each scored twice in a 5-1 Fords’ rout of Springfield in the Central League Semifinals.
“I’m proud of him,” said Dante of his kid brother. “He comes to work. He does what he has to do. I’m really proud of the kid.”
Alex Gattone showed up when it counted. His unassisted goal in the first period made it 2-0. His second was a thing of beauty, and it snuffed out the Cougars’ comeback.
Down 4-0, Dan Barrett had scored 1:27 into the third period off a Kevin Brown point shot. Some 40 seconds later, Alex collected a cross-ice pass from Henry DeVoe and rang a wrist-shot off the crossbar and in.
It was a confident snipe from a player who’s benefited from Dante’s presence.
“It’s really great to play with him,” said Alex. “It’s really a great experience. He gives me a lot of good tips on the ice.”
Alex Gattone isn’t the only youngster thriving for the Fords. His linemate Jacob Orazi is a fellow frosh, as is Dan Quartapella, who played on Haverford’s top penalty kill unit (that went 7-for-8 on the night) and assisted on John Scarduzio’s opening goal.
“This was supposed to be a year for them to learn and find their way, but one of the things I said to them was we’re here to win,” Haverford coach John Povey said. “Don’t just try to fit in. Make an impact. That’s what you’re capable of doing.”
Alex Gattone, Quartapella, Orazi and company fed off their coach’s vote of confidence. They made life miserable for Springfield’s defensemen, forcing turnovers and creating scoring chances. And the Fords’ upperclassmen did their part as well. DeVoe finished with two assists. Scarduzio found the back of the net less than 30 seconds into the contest. And, of course, Dante Gattone dominated from the blue line. His coast-to-coast rush made it 3-0 after one. He then added the fourth off a faceoff play in the second.
“I knew they were ready to go,” Povey said. “There wasn’t much for me to say tonight.”
The Cougars (15-5), who hit three posts but had trouble solving Tyler Cassidy (33 saves), just couldn’t get going. Not only did they convert on just one of eight power plays, they also negated three with penalties of their own.
“We got frustrated early when we got down,” Springfield coach Phil Eastman said. “We kind of collectively made a ton of mistakes. We weren’t able to make things happen as a team.”
The Cougars too often found the unhappy medium between being too precise and not precise enough. Pucks either clattered off the glass or found their way to Cassidy’s belly. There were no second or third chances to be had.
Take nothing away from Haverford (12-6-0-2), though. The Fords hadn’t beaten Springfield in four years. They’ve now done the trick twice in one week after closing the regular season with a 6-5 victory over the Cougars last Thursday.
They’ll take on Conestoga, which defeated Strath Haven, 6-2, in the other semifinal, in the title game Thursday night.
The Pioneers pose a tough matchup. They’ve been the hottest team in the Central League the second half of the season. Then again, Haverford is playing its best hockey. The Gattones led the charge Wednesday — with John Gattone in attendance — and need another strong effort Thursday. If they get it, Alex may just be the one going home screaming.
In the other semifinal:
Conestoga 6, Strath Haven 2 >> The Pioneers’ top players came to play at Ice Line. Frank Konopasek and Michael Cameron each scored twice as Conestoga stopped the Panthers in the Central League semifinals.
That duo now has 70 goals this season. Haven was seeking a second consecutive berth in the title game.
“We just got smoked in transition,” Panthers coach Matt Chandik said. “When you have the talent they have, if you give them an inch, they’ll take advantage.”
Conestoga struck four times in the first period, outshooting the visitors, 11-9. Three minutes into the second, Konopasek made it 5-0. Haven was chasing the game from the start.
“We had a couple of good chances,” said Chandik, “but we’d turn around and it’d be in the back of our net.”
Ryan Spanier continued his fine season with a second period goal. Mike Irey assisted on that marker, then added a second for the Panthers (13-5-1-1) in the third. Conestoga (17-2) completed the scoring with an empty-netter.
In the PCL/Blue semifinals:
Cardinal O’Hara 11, Roman Catholic 3 >> Liam McCanney collected four goals and four assists to send the Lions into Thursday’s final at the Skatium against Father Judge, a 7-3 winner over Archbishop Ryan.
John Paul Ahearn contributed one goal and five assists, while Zac Deemer added two goals and two assists. O’Hara scored the first three goals and had a 6-1 lead after one period. McCanney had two goals and one assist in that first-period eruption.
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