WEST GOSHEN — For one period Monday, Haverford followed its game plan to slow down Conestoga’s first line, skating the Pioneers to a draw.
But that top unit — centered by Jayden Sison with Frank Konopasek and Will Schnorr on the wings — keeps coming, and Sison in particular plays with the demeanor of a horror movie villain: He’s ruthless, faster than he appears and doesn’t go away.
Sison scored two goals, one of them a spectacular individual effort, and added two assists to send third-seeded Conestoga past the sixth-seeded Fords, 4-1, in the Flyers Cup AA quarterfinals at Ice Line.
The Pioneers will take on No. 15 Downingtown West, victors over No. 7 Boyertown, in the semifinals Wednesday.
“I think we came out prepared,” Haverford goaltender Tyler Cassidy said. “We just got tired. The other team is fast and skilled.”
The Fords matched Conestoga stride for stride in the opening 16 minutes. Haverford countered the Pioneers’ big guns with freshman Jagur McClelland centering sophomores Jacob Orazi and Daniel Quartapella. That youthful trio got the better of the hosts early, disrupting Conestoga’s breakout and bottling Sison and company in their own end.
With less than three minutes played, Quartapella forced a turnover and lofted a pass for Orazi. He beat Malcolm Roeder glove side.
Even when Sison evened the score 27 seconds later, Haverford continued to press. The Fords ended the period with 11 shots to Conestoga’s seven.
But that minor success was short-lived: Haverford managed just seven more shots the rest of the game as the Pioneers got moving.
Sison created the breakthrough with the man advantage 4:51 into the second period. Coasting through the neutral zone, he took a pass from Tyler Kalbach and assessed the defense.
“I saw I was alone and took the defender one-on-one,” Sison said. “I took him to the outside. I saw (Cassidy’s) five-hole open, and I tried to sneak it in. I’m lucky it went in.”
It was his third goal in two Flyers Cup games to go with 33 in the regular season (according to ICSHL statistics), and it was emblematic of Sison’s talent. His fluid skating motion leaves the impression that he’s moving at three-quarters speed. This allows him to dart by opponents who make the mistake of slowing down.
“It’s certainly not how we draw it up on the power play, but you give him a little leeway,” Pioneers coach Mike Graves said of Sison’s second goal. “It’s deflating. You can only scheme so much. Haverford did nothing wrong. (Sison) just made a great play, a great play on the defenseman, a great play on the goalie.”
From there, Conestoga, which went 2-0 against Haverford in Central League play this season, dominated. The Fords couldn’t escape their zone, and Cassidy faced a barrage of shots — 17 in total in the second period.
Sison beat him as did Schnorr with a wicked tip of Jack Tabata’s point shot.
“I think we had to stick with our game plan,” Sison said. “They stuck with us for a period, but we outlasted them going into the second. I think once we settled down and got into the game, we were fine.”
He showed it not only with his game but also between whistles. On his way to one faceoff, Sison bobbed his head and mouthed the words to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” playing on the PA system, a song that debuted a full nine months before the sophomore was born.
“I try to keep it light, try to focus,” Sison said, “but not get too stuck in my brain.”
Whatever the formula, it has worked for the Pioneers. Sison set up Konopasek for a one-timer to make it 4-1 2:58 into the third period. Haverford, playing mostly two lines and two pairs of defensemen all game, was gassed. The Fords fired one shot on goal in the final frame.
“Tonight, our youth showed a little bit,” Haverford coach John Povey said. “We’re relying on freshman after freshman, sophomore after sophomore. And that’s hard. We’re realistic about it. Our group gave everything they had.”
Cassidy was outstanding in the later stages. The result could have been much worse had the junior not been on his game. He stopped Konopasek on a breakaway in the second period, flashed his glove to deny Sison a hat trick in the third and then slid across his crease to kick a Konopasek one-timer away with Haverford short-handed.
Cassidy was the last one out of the locker room as the Fords’ season came to an end.
“I’m going to remember this one into the offseason,” he said. “Every time I don’t feel like working hard, I’m just going to remember this feeling. I know my teammates will, too.”
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