HATFIELD TWP. >> Goaltending can carry you a long way in hockey. A stellar performance between the pipes can mask a lot of holes in a team’s game, and while La Salle may not have many deficiencies, when they do have a let down, goalie Harrison Feeney has picked them up time and time again.
Thursday night was no different, as Feeney, who would eventually be crowned tournament MVP, stopped 22 shots as La Salle won its seventh Flyers Cup in the last nine years with a 4-1 victory over Holy Ghost Prep.
“It was a heck of a hockey game, it really was,” La Salle head coach Wally Muehlbronner said. “It all started with Harrison, he’s been the rock behind this team all season long, and really in his whole career here. He’s a phenomenal competitor with huge upside, he’s the backbone of this team.”
La Salle got the scoring started just 6:10 into the game as Henry Kaechelin found the back of the net off a rebound from a Joe Mancuso shot.
Kaechelin was able to get his stick on a bouncing puck and sneak it past Holy Ghost goaltender Bogdan Sharapat to give the Explorers the early 1-0 lead.
“I definitely think that first goal gave us a boost but if it wasn’t me somebody was going to come out and do it, that’s just this team,” said Kaechelin about his opening tally. “Honestly, all I really remember is the rebound coming out and shooting and seeing it hit the back of the net.”
A Michael Klein goal to start the second then made it 2-0 La Salle, as they looked to be dictating the style of play and controlling the game. However, a string of penalties throughout the period would give the Firebirds some life as La Salle just couldn’t seem to stay out of the box.
Five straight penalties from the Explorers, including two 5-on-3 advantages spanning almost three total minutes, swung the game back in Holy Ghost’s favor. A game that saw La Salle jump out to a 16-8 lead in shots now had Holy Ghost with a 17-16 shot advantage, and if it were not for the PK unit and Feeney, the Explorers would have had a hard time coming out on top.
“(Killing those penalties) Definitely helped us get back and focused,” Muehlbronner said. “They have a great power play and at the same time we were out there and did a great job killing, but you’re not going to win a game if you keep playing 5-on-3 or 5-on-4.”
Eventually, the Firebirds found the back of the net, but it would come at even strength. Kyle Weller gave Holy Ghost their first and only goal as he made a nice move to beat the defender one on one. As he sped towards Feeney, the puck hit the end of his stick and trickled through the goaltender’s five-hole, bringing it to within one.
Unfortunately for Holy Ghost, that was be all the offense it could manage, as Feeney and the La Salle defense shut the door on their way to an Eastern State championship.
“This feels great; we’ve worked so hard for this,” Feeney said. “Just as a team we’ve put a lot of effort into this and it was great we could pull it out.”
Tournament MVP was not the only individual hardware the Explorers would bring home either. Joe Mancuso, with a goal and an assist in the championship game, brought home tournament leading scorer honors as he finished with 10 points in the three games played.
Next up for La Salle, it looks to compose themselves following this huge win, as the Explorers travel to State College to play the winner of the Penguins Cup.
“We’ve got to just get back to business,” Muehlbronner said. “We’ll have two practices this week and then try to make some plans about how we’re getting to Penn State.”