ASTON >> The first time Harris Brotman had a Penncrest player steaming toward him late in the third period Thursday night, the goalie knew exactly what to do.
The second time, he could only hope.
But just seconds later, the wave headed his way was a band of joyous Radnor teammates, celebrating a 3-2 win for the sixth seed in the Flyers Cup AA at IceWorks.
Brotman made 19 saves, but unquestionably the biggest was a denial of a Ryan Dumont breakaway with three minutes to play, the Radnor goalie flexing out a pad to stop Dumont in all alone.
“I saw him break through,” Brotman said. “We had our defenseman coming through on the back check. I was going to poke-check and I just did what I had to do. I put my pad out and I was lucky to get it.”
Scrum in front of the net then a clear. Final: Radnor 3, Penncrest 2. pic.twitter.com/LVLxW9YDpM
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 10, 2017
That stop came with the Raiders nursing a 3-1 lead. Penncrest whittled the deficit to one goal when Sam Clapinson shoveled home a feed from Austin Mazzulo on a 2-on-1, setting up a hectic final 1:45.
But the best chance of the final minutes came via Penncrest’s leading scorer Matt Dougherty, who found way too much space crossing into the high slot and rattled a shot off the crossbar with Brotman beat to the blocker side with 26 seconds left.
“My heart dropped,” Brotman said. “It’s very nerve-wracking to feel that in a one-goal game, hitting the crossbar. It could go in. I’m lucky it didn’t and it went wide.”
Both of those would’ve been very pretty goals had they come to fruition. Given the choice, Radnor gladly would take its pair of ugly, muck-and-grind goals in the second period, the result of the dogged work around the crease that made the difference between the teams.
Anthony Laudicina got Radnor on the board midway through the second period, stuffing the puck home at the side of the net after DJ Sucher threw the puck into a dangerous area. Jack Miles hammered one in with 20 ticks left in the second on the power play, tucking away the rebound after Teddy Girton’s drive from the opposite point caromed off the end boards.
The Raiders were under no illusions as to the aesthetic value of the markers. They didn’t much care, either.
“We’re not the most skilled team, but we try and bury every chance we get,” Sucher said. “We were pretty successful today with two, I guess you could say, trash goals.”
Goal Penncrest! Brotman makes the first save but Eric Maard goes top shelf. 1-0 Lions. pic.twitter.com/TeDtjLB1x8
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) March 10, 2017
Miles’ goal also displayed an excellent day from the second defensive pairing of Girton and Jake Rader. So much of the Raiders’ success this season has relied on Clayton Proctor logging ludicrous minutes totals on the blue line, often paired with Luc Van Czoernig.
Proctor still approached the 30-minute mark Thursday, albeit with fewer shifts as a forward. He impacted the game with a few big hits and a couple of graceful sorties toward goal that Mark Dumont stopped among his 26 saves. But with games on back-to-back nights, following the 3-1 win over Lower Dauphin Wednesday, riding Proctor into the ground was an unsustainable strategy.
If you ask Brotman, the biggest difference between Thursday’s win and a 7-1 thumping doled out by Penncrest early in the season is the defensive competence one through four.
“It’s really good knowing that I can trust all four of my defensemen,” Brotman said. “At the beginning of the year, I had one or two people that I always wanted out there that I could trust playing the puck or blocking shots and doing all that. But knowing that I can have all four of my defense running lines, doing what they have to do, it’s really good.”
Sucher also stepped up with what proved to be the game-winner at 3:01 of the third, lifting the stick of a defenseman in the corner, walking out in front and firing home a rising wrister to Dumont’s short side.
Sucher and the Raiders prized “energy and confidence.” Penncrest, off a double-bye into the quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed, lacked in both departments. The Lions took 11 minutes to get their first shot on goal and were outshot 26-12 through two periods. They got on the scoreboard first when Eric Maard stepped off the side boards and found the net, beating Brotman high glove at 3:33 of the second.
But the breakthrough brought no corresponding spark, and the defenseman Maard takes some responsibility, whistled for the cross-checking that paved the way for Miles’ power-play tally.
“We had a lot of chances, even though we didn’t have a lot of shots early in the game,” Maard said. “We’ve got to keep going and find shots and get in there.”
Ultimately, Radnor did the dirty work it needed to. And as a result, gained the revenge it so desperately sought.
“They won the first game 7-1, and we wanted revenge,” Sucher said. “We wanted to pick it up. We knew after the win yesterday that we were going to keep rolling and win this game today.”
Also in Flyers Cup AA:
William Tennent 5, Haverford 4 >> From the outset Thursday night, Haverford was playing from behind against the No. 4 seed, and the Fords’ valiant comeback made the ending that much more difficult to swallow.
Tennant’s Jack McKeever scored at 6:02 of overtime to down fifth-seeded Haverford.
Shane Moran scored at 9:54 of the third to get the Fords even. He had set up Henry DeVoe 31 seconds into the third to get them on level terms for the first time at 3-3, which lasted all of 97 seconds.
Dominic Pantalone scored twice, and Dante Gattone added two assists. Both DeVoe and Moran tallied a goal and a helper each.
The Fords trailed 64 seconds in thanks to Sean Ovington’s goal. Ovington added a helper on Christopher Kreider’s goal in the third and McKeever’s winner.
Tyler Cassidy made 30 saves in goal for the Fords.
Central Bucks West 7, Ridley 1 >> The Green Raiders didn’t go down without a fight, just not the one you would’ve wanted, a melee that ended the game with seven minutes to play. Nonetheless, the top seeded Bucks advance.
Ron Higgins scored the only goal for the eighth-seeded Green Raiders, a power play tally set up by Brett Dunning and Eric Miller.
Tucker Forte and Shawn Philipps scored twice each for the Bucks. The Green Raiders were whistled for 64 penalty minutes, the Bucks for 36 before the game-ending scrum.