After slow start, Ridley finds groove in victory

ASTON >> If you watched only the first 1:17 of Monday’s Central League hockey game between Ridley and Strath Haven, you might have confused which team was considered a legitimate championship contender. The Panthers, 5-14-0 a season ago, scored twice in that short span to take a shocking two-goal lead on the Green Raiders.

Ridley, though, responded like a top team should. Michael Giampapa and Colin McCann each had three points as the Raiders fired in six unanswered goals in a 6-2 win at IceWorks. The defeat is Strath Haven’s first this season after a 3-0 start.

“We knew what they had coming in,” said Ridley captain Nate Dunning, who assisted on Giampapa’s goal. “We knew we had to bring it.”

And yet the Raiders started sluggishly in uncharacteristic fashion. Ryan Lowe, with nine goals in the young season, picked Ridley’s pocket behind the net mere seconds into the game. When Brendahn Brawley kicked out a rebound, Mike Irey was there to bury it and spot Haven a 1-0 lead. Less than a minute later, another Raiders’ turnover led to Connor Demo’s marker.

It was as ugly a start as Dunning could have imagined. Through four minutes, Ridley conceded twice, iced the puck two times and registered a single shot on goal. Still, the bench was calm.

“We knew we had a lot of time left,” said Dunning. He took control with four minutes to play in the period. The senior defenseman threw a saucer pass that Giampapa corralled at center ice before going in for a breakaway. He scored on his own rebound to bring the Raiders back in the game.

In the second period, Ridley took control of the contest for good. Brett Dunning and Michael Desio scored 31 seconds apart to spot the Raiders their first lead. McCann’s goal with 1:16 to play in the frame added a nice cushion. All three markers came off what’s defined Ridley’s offense the last few seasons: Chip pucks by defensemen, create odd-man rushes and go hard to the net.

Ridley's  Colin McCann, center, hugs teammates Jake Cross, right, and  Michael Desio as Strath Haven's Sean Volz (17) skates by after McCann's goal in Monday's ICSHL Central League game.
Ridley’s Colin McCann, center, hugs teammates Jake Cross, right, and Michael Desio as Strath Haven’s Sean Volz (17) skates by after McCann’s goal in Monday’s ICSHL Central League game.

“We watch their defense early and see what they’re giving us,” said McCann. His line, the second behind the top unit of Brett Dunning, Giampapa and Nick Catona, combined for six points. If the Raiders go far, it’ll be because of their new found scoring depth.

“All through last year, (coach Steph Charbonneau) told us we need all three lines to produce,” said McCann. “We took it on ourselves to make sure we lived up to that.”

McCann fed Cross for a tap-in in the third, before Catona, the team’s top scorer a year ago, pounced on a Giampapa rebound to complete the scoring.

On this night, the Raiders deep lineup shined against an opponent that is still very much a work in progress. The Panthers are nursing some injuries and recovering from illness. They also rely heavily on freshmen. Irey is a first-year player as are Ryan Spanier (one assist) and Blayden Reid, who played every other shift on the blue line. The young group gave Ridley all it could handle through a period-and-a-half.

“We had one or two shots I thought we could’ve popped in. That could have been a 3-3 or 4-4 game on another night,” said Haven coach Mike Keenan, of no relation nor resemblance — physical or otherwise — to former Flyers bench-boss Iron Mike. “Our chances were there.”

Their fitness was not. Playing two lines and three defensemen for most of the evening, the Panthers (3-1, 3-1) were

Ridley goalie Brendahn Brawley makes a stick save, one of 14 on the night, in Ridley's win Monday.
Ridley goalie Brendahn Brawley makes a stick save, one of 14 on the night, in Ridley’s win Monday.

exhausted by the third. It showed on the stat sheet. The Raiders (4-0-1, 3-0) out-shot the hosts 24-9 in the second and third periods.

Ridley survived not only a tough Haven team but also a somewhat off-night from stalwart goaltender Brawley. Brawley will surely play better. So too will his and the Raiders’ opponents.

“Everyone’s telling us we’re the favorites,” said McCann. “But we can’t listen to that. We can’t get a big head.”

In the South Division:

Sun Valley 4, Oxford 4 >> The Hornets scored twice in a 1 minute, 16-second span in the third period to tie the game.

Eric DeLellis paced the Vanguards with three goals and one assist. Nicholas Malorgio contributed one goal and three assists. Goalie Nicholas Thacz stopped 32 of 36 shots.

In nonleague action:

St. Joseph’s Prep 13, Haverford High 5 >> The Hawklets scored nine of the last 10 goals to break the game open.

Mitchell Estes led Haverford with two goals. Frankie McVeigh chipped in with one goal and one assist. Demitrios Stefanou paced Saint Joseph’s with two goals and three assists.

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