BERWYN >> Something had to give.
Spring-Ford and Conestoga each came into Saturday’s District One Class AAA quarterfinal matchup with identical 16-4 records and both riding extended winning streaks (Conestoga 13 straight victories, Spring-Ford 6 in a row.)
But it was the defending District champion Pioneers who would continue their winning ways, riding a dozen first-half goals to advance to the District semifinals with a 14-6 victory over Spring-Ford.
The Pioneers advance to Tuesday’s semifinals at top-seeded Avon Grove, a rematch of 2017’s district and state championship games (Conestoga claimed the District title, but Avon Grove got their payback in a double-overtime classic for the state title.)
“We’ve been waiting for this one, for sure,” said Nick Braendel, who tallied a hat trick for Conestoga Saturday. “We’ll be ready to play.”
The victory also means a secured spot in PIAA-AAA state playoffs for the Pioneers (top-six finishers in District 1 qualify), while Spring-Ford moves into a do-or-die playback with Downingtown East for one of District One’s final two berths in the PIAA state tournament.
Conestoga, with its 20 seniors, has spent the entire 2018 campaign proving that experience matters. They hope that senior leadership helps to carry them Tuesday vs. Avon Grove and beyond.
“We know they’re a great team, but we’re more focused on what we can do this year,” added Tate Kienzle, who paced the Pioneers with four goals. “We know our game — play fast, play smart, play tough.”
Or they could just play like they did Saturday. The Pioneers’ potent offense got cranked up in the first quarter when Braendel scored the game’s first goal at 9:36. Just 38 seconds later, the lead was 3-0 as Georgetown commit James Reilly’s repeated faceoff dominance led to Will Schnorr and Kienzle tallies.
Jarrod Marenger converted for Spring-Ford to cut the lead to 3-1 at 7:34, but Reilly showed the completeness of his game with a top-shelf bomb at 5:27 to re-extend the lead to three goals.
The Pioneers went on another run to extend their lead to 6-1 before SF freshman Nicholas Teets struck to bring the Rams back within four.
Braendel and Kienzle completed hat tricks in the second quarter, with Kienzle adding a fourth marker as the Pioneers went on another 6-0 run before Spring-Ford’s Ryan Rosenblum closed out the half with the Rams’ third goal.
Marenger registered a second-half highlight for the Rams, registering his second tally on a behind-the-back finish at 6:36 of the third quarter. The ‘Stoga defense kept goalie Scott MacMillan (three saves) clean for the rest of the quarter, however, before MacMillan gave way to sophomore Mick Lee in the fourth quarter.
In all, Kienzle led the way with four goals for the Pioneers, with Braendel adding a hat trick and Reilly and Schnorr each scoring twice.
Marenger led the way for Spring-Ford with two goals and two assists. Kyle Pettine added a dozen saves in net. Rams coach Kevin Donnelly stressed consistency as the key to securing their spot in states on Tuesday.
“We had some bright spots, but every mistake we made, (Conestoga) capitalized — that’s what great teams do,” he said. “We know we need to move forward quickly — on to the next one.”