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Spring-Ford tops Pope John Paul II to stay unbeaten in PAC

ROYERSFORD >> Early in Wednesday’s game, Pope John Paul II had the league’s best team in a frenzy.

Then, after an impassioned conversation with head coach Kevin Donnelly, Spring-Ford did what Spring-Ford does best.

The Rams rattled off 11 of the game’s next 12 goals on the way to a 14-4 Pioneer Athletic Conference win over Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II’s Mike Kropp (2) has hit shot saved by Spring-Ford keeper Kyle Pettine (46) during Wednesday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“I did something a little bit uncharacteristic,” recalled Donnelly with a smile of his team’s timeout trailing 2-0 just two minutes into regulation. “I let them know that I was displeased and disappointed with the way they came out. They certainly responded to it.”

As a result, Spring-Ford improves to 8-0 in the PAC and 11-4 overall. With Friday’s game against Owen J. Roberts looming, the Rams are just one league win away from completing their fifth straight unbeaten season in the conference. The Rams handed Pope John Paul II (9-2 overall) its first PAC loss of the year, putting the skids to a historic start under second-year head coach Blase Cesarone.

“We were up for it at the start, but I think we fell out of playing PJP lacrosse,” said Cesarone. “It’s a learning experience. It’s the first time we’ve had a defeat as substantial as that this year, so hopefully we can use this one as motivation and collectively get back on the same page. I think we got exposed in some spots.”

Pope John Paul II’s Jake Bildstein (1) carries the ball upfield while Spring-Ford’s Dan Brown, left, and Sean Erdman, right, close in. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Spring-Ford’s senior midfielder Ryan Rosenblum was at the forefront of that exposé. After a goal by Brad Hart made the score 2-1 late in the first period, Rosenblum finished a pair — including a dart from the right elbow with just over two minutes left in the period — to give Spring-Ford a 3-2 lead heading into the second.

“It was a sigh of relief, for sure,” said Rosenblum of retaking the lead. “We came out slow in this one, but after we took the lead it was kind of like we were getting things going again. We wanted to keep building the momentum, keep it going.”

And that they did.

Rosenblum finished out with two goals and three assists while freshman midfielder Nick Teets scored three times and added an assist. Junior attack Peyton Gensler finished with four goals including the play of the game late in the third period.

Spring-Ford’s Ryan Rosenblum, left, sends a shot toward goal while Pope John Paul II’s Zach Galir (8) defends. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

With seven seconds left in the period, the PJP keeper sent the ball airborne with plans to let the clock run out. Spring-Ford defenseman Dean Costalas fielded the ball at midfield and sent it toward goal where Gensler collected it, turned and fired one into the cage just as the buzzer sounded to give Spring-Ford a 10-3 lead headed for the final period.

“We’re starting to put things together, which is really good to see,” said Donnelly. “This is the right time of the year to do so. We played like Spring-Ford after that slow start; but we need to play like Spring-Ford all the time.”

Collin Pettine and Kyle Decerio were each credited with solo goals in the win while Kyle Pettine had 10 saves in goal.

Spring-Ford head coach Kevin Donnelly, left, and Pope John Paul II head coach Blase Cesarone chat prior to the start of Wednesday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Eric D’Agostino scored the game’s opening goal, a one-hop shot from the right side just over a minute into regulation, before Kyle Donovan finished one from the left side just over a minute later.

From there, PJP went on a 20 minute scoring draught before Shane McConnell got the Golden Panthers on the board once again late in the second period. Luke Roth rounded out PJP’s scorers with a finish early on in the fourth period while keeper Noah Balliet finished with 10 saves.

Pope John Paul II’s Shane McConnell, center, tries to split a pair of Spring-Ford defenders during Wednesday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Today just wasn’t our day,” said Cesarone. “We got out of playing our style — penalties and turnovers killed us. I think if we can clean up those things going forward, we should be just fine. We’ve just got to be able to get back on the same page.

“Having a loss like this one may not be the worst thing for us. It could be what we need for the late stretch of the season.”

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