Gerzabek picks up the slack as Springfield rolls

LOWER MERION — Mike Gerzabek kept the feeling to himself Wednesday night. But the junior attackman was plenty anxious as he watched District One champion Springfield escape by the skin of its teeth in a 9-8, overtime win against Hershey.

In Saturday’s PIAA quarterfinals, Gerzabek had no intention of making the Cougars’ latest do-or-die challenge quite so dire.

Gerzabek scored a season-high five goals, propelling Springfield to an 8-3 romp over Central Bucks East.

The win at Harriton sends the Cougars into an All-Delco state semifinal with Radnor, which dispatched Conestoga, 13-4, in the earlier quarter. The meeting for a trip to the final at HersheyPark Stadium will take place Tuesday evening at a site and time to be determined.

Saturday’s was a much easier path than the one Springfield (19-4) had selected Wednesday, when an extra session and some heroics from Zac Methlie and Dan Wasson on either side of the field were required to escape a game Hershey side in a lightning-marred affair.

“It changed me,’ Gerzabek said. “I don’t know about anybody else on the team, but at the end of that game, I wouldn’t admit it to anybody else, but I was getting really nervous. …

“I don’t want to be back in that situation.’

Gerzabek relieved those fears early and often Saturday. He recorded a natural hat trick in the game’s first seven minutes, furnishing a 3-0 lead. He added a fourth marker, off a sublime feed by Kyle Long, midway through the second quarter after the spread had been narrowed to one goal.

And his fifth and final tally at 7:28 of the fourth capped a 5-0 Springfield run that alleviated any doubt as to which was the superior team.

Gerzabek and the Cougars weren’t surprised when CB East opted to lock off Lucas Spence, Springfield’s gravest scoring threat, with a long pole (either Kevin D’Andrea or Matthew Krumenacker) for long stretches. But just as in the District One title game, when Gerzabek scored three times against a Conestoga defense keying on Spence, the junior rose to the occasion.

“With our best offensive player being shut off, I just knew that I needed to step up and finish,’ Gerzabek said, with a little fatigue and resignation in his voice for sheer repetition of that question this postseason.

If there was another lesson to be gleaned from the Hershey scare, it was that one goal scorer or one prosperous run of goals wouldn’t suffice. The Cougars led by four goals in that game before seeing the Trojans mount a comeback and force OT.

Saturday, the onus was placed on the defense to ensure that the lead remained intact and the game stayed sedate.

The margin accumulated by Gerzabek threatened to evaporate in the second quarter, with CB East goalie Sean McGovern stepping up for a trio of point-blank denials of Gerzabek and the second of Ryan Brown’s three goals winnowing the deficit to one at 3-2. The Patriots won the ensuing faceoff, but within two minutes, a save by James Spence and Long’s deft dime to Gerzabek restored the cushion to two, an edge that wouldn’t be vulnerable again.

Springfield goalie James Spence took the initiative on that front with 11 saves. Many in the second and third quarters were sensational, and as the game wore on, a weary CB East squad was content with launching long-range, low-percentage efforts that Spence ate up with ease.

“Just everyone bought into what we had to do, and we played really well,’ Spence said. “They gave me nice, easy outside shots to save, and it was really just a team effort on defense.’

“I know most goalies would’ve have saved half those shots,’ said Jake Crowther, who joined Methlie, Pat Smyth and Dave Wasson in forming the Cougars’ defensive spine.

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