HAVERFORD — After a promising start to the season, Haverford ran cold when it counted most. The Fords limped their way to two wins in their final seven games, culminating in a Central League playoffs loss to Ridley. On Wednesday, Haverford had a chance to regroup when the Fords, the sixth seed in AA, welcomed No. 11 Central Bucks High School East to the Skatium in the first round of the 40th Flyers Cup.
The hosts blew the gates open with a 7-1 victory. And one of the players who felt the struggles of February the most delivered in the key moments: sophomore Jacob Orazi. He scored three times in the second period.
“I was in a drought,” Orazi said. “I knew they would come at some point.”
Orazi is one of a handful of underclassmen Haverford relies on for offense. And like any other young player, he experienced the ups-and-downs of high school hockey.
“It was huge for Jake to come out and put pucks in the net tonight,” Fords coach John Povey said. “He hasn’t really been scoring like he did at the beginning of the year, so for him to get a bunch tonight is going to give him confidence.”
Two things helped Orazi turn things around. The first was seeing Quinn Hawley and Daniel Mariani, Jr., find the back of the net in the opening five minutes to spot Haverford to a 2-0 lead. The second came in the form of a lesson.
“I made a bad mistake on the power play,” Orazi admitted, “and coach told me to simplify things down.”
And so, instead of trying to make plays toward the top of the zone, Orazi headed to the goal. He struck twice on the power play and scored from below the goal line when he simply threw a puck on net.
Orazi’s markers came at the right time. Owen Connor had scored 9:49 into the second to pull the Patriots within two. But that goal was quickly answered.
Daniel Morris and Zachary Scuderi scored in the third to put the game out of reach.
The result left the Fords’ leadership talking around the early exit in the Central League playoffs.
“Of course we were there to win (the Central League playoffs),” Povey said. “But with that being said, it’s a huge grind and you’ve got to rebound the next week and play a difficult schedule. It wasn’t good to get bounced like that, but if you’re looking at the positives…”
There’s no doubt Haverford benefited from the extra rest. The Fords outshot C.B. East, 12-4, in the first period and 37-14 for the game.
“We regrouped. Everybody was going hard out there,” Morris said. “Not one person had a bad game tonight. We put the puck in the net.”
For all the positives Haverford could take away, the game had an ugly ending. The shots and goal totals weren’t the only lopsided stats on the scoresheet — the Patriots took 18 penalties to the Fords’ two. Nine of those C.B. East penalties came in the last six minutes of the game. Three Patriots were ejected. There were hits from behind, cross checks, slashes and punches to the face.
“I was trying to calm the guys down. Those teams from the Suburban (One League), they like to play physical,” Morris said. “We have the speed. We’re not going to dive down to their level. When they did take penalties, we capitalized and took advantage on the power play.”
Indeed, Haverford scored three goals with the man advantage. But the safety of his players had Povey hot. He escorted them off the ice after the game rather than go through a handshake line to avoid further conflict.
“You got to put guys out there that you think will be the ones in control. Obviously, at that point we’re thinking to the next game,” Povey said. “Hopefully they control their emotions. It’s unfortunate those type of games get out of control like that. Penalties 18-2? That’s unfortunate.”
Luckily, the Fords escaped major injury and move on to the quarterfinals where they’ll take on No. 3 seed and Central League champion Conestoga.
St. Joseph’s Prep 4, Cardinal O’Hara 0 >> After making a surprise run to the Flyers Cup AAA semifinals in 2018, third-seeded Cardinal O’Hara was bounced in the quarterfinals Monday by the No. 6 Hawks, who the Lions defeated twice in the regular season.
“Flyers Cup, it’s different than the PCL. It’s better competition,” Lions defenseman Matt Beck said. “It’s faster play. Everyone was too laid back at the start. We just didn’t get it going.”
That may be an understatement. The Lions’ first shot on goal came with 4:40 left in the first period. They were outshot, 23-6, over the first two periods alone.
“I think the first couple shifts we had opportunities to put the puck deep behind their defense, and we didn’t do that,” O’Hara coach Ed Banes said. “I don’t think it was anything different (they did). They took our game plan, which we beat them twice with, and jammed it down our throat.”
The Lions fell out of rhythm early. Dan Barrett took an offensive zone penalty to put St. Joe’s Prep on the power play. Evan Cassady banged in a rebound to spot the visitors a 1-0 lead. Later in the frame, the Hawks found the back of the net again with the man advantage, this time on a tic-tac-toe play: Frank Verratti from Andrew Centrella and Vincent Borgesi in two passes.
Owen Moke made it 3-0 in the second.
O’Hara netminder Troy Percival did all he could to keep it close, stopping two breakaways to close the second period.
“He was phenomenal all game,” Banes said of Percival. “I think it could have been a 7- or 8-0 game.”
The Lions just couldn’t get the offense going. They outshot St. Joe’s Prep, 8-7, in the third, but at that point, it was too late to muster a comeback. James Craig added an empty-net marker with 1:29 remaining.
“We wanted to keep things simple. Dump the puck in, clean passes on the breakout, get pucks out,” Beck said. “We tried to play too individual.”
The matchup was always going to be tough. Although O’Hara won a third consecutive PCL title and was 2-0 against St. Joseph’s Prep in 2018-19, the Lions were still facing the defending Pennsylvania state champions. The Hawks are now one step closer to a repeat.
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