Squad Goals: Owen J. Roberts, St. Joseph’s Prep land spots in Pioneer final

OAKS >> The combined team of students from Owen J. Roberts and Phoenixville High Schools — known as Owen J. Roberts in competition — is conspicuous by their absence from the Flyers Cup, considering their 12-5 record.

The Flyers Cup, Eastern Pennsylvania’s half of the ice hockey state championship, takes the 16 best teams in the AA classification into a single-elimination tournament, with the winner playing for the state title. While the Wildcats certainly fit the bill, they were ineligible due to their status as a combined team from two schools.

Owen J. Roberts’ Kevin Hatten (71) celebrates with teammates during Monday’s win against Boyertown. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“It’s unfortunate to not be part of the Flyers Cup,” said OJR senior captain Kevin Hatten, “but all season long, our goal has been to win the PAC Championship. That’s our entire focus.”

That focus was evident Monday night, as it has been all season, as OJR bested Boyertown 7-4, in a semifinal contest to move into Thursday night’s PAC championship game at Ice Line in West Chester.

Owen J. Roberts’ Andrew Gibson, left, and Boyertown’s Jake Harman (89) battle for possession. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

The win improved OJR’s conference record to a stellar 10-1 on the season.

“We knew this coming in (that they couldn’t participate in the Flyers Cup),” said Hatten. “So we set other goals for ourselves as a team. We’re one step away from our goal.”

The Wildcats will try to take that final step Thursday against St. Joseph’s Prep (a hockey-only member of the PAC), who outlasted Spring-Ford 3-2 in the other semifinal.

Boyertown’s Jake Harman (89) splits a pair of Owen J. Roberts defenders during Monday’s game. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

A second-period onslaught was the difference for the ‘Cats on Monday. The Wildcats completely dominated the first period, outshooting Boyertown 19-2, but were unable to solve Bears goaltender Troy Viola.

It was junior Drew Gibson who solved Viola first on a backhand at 1:50 of the second period, with freshman Dylan Gratton following just 1:27 later. Another two minutes passed before Gunner Winget made it 3-0 OJR.

Owen J. Roberts’ Dylan Gratton, back, celebrates with Ian McHugh after scoring a goal during the second period against Boyertown. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“We’ve played (Boyertown) before and we knew Viola was a good goalie, but we kept shooting, stuck to our game plan of getting pucks to the net … we cashed in a couple of rebounds as well, which always helps.”

After Ricky Gerhart and Jackson Nowak brought Boyertown within one, Bobby Batten and Gratton’s second of the game re-expanded the OJR lead to three just sixteen seconds apart. Hatten scored for OJR with 2:35 remaining, capping off an explosive six-goal period.

Boyertown’s Jackson Novak (88) celebrates after scoring a goal during Monday’s game against Boyertown. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“We’ve been a strong second period team all year,” said coach Chris Gratton. “We had a productive talk during that first intermission, and just relied on our players to take control. We have some excellent leaders on this team.”

Nowak’s second of the evening was closely followed by a Jake Harman goal to draw Boyertown closer in the third, but Johnny Kettelle sealed the victory for OJR with under a minute to play.

Max Hunt stopped 25 shots in a winning effort for the Wildcats. Boyertown dropped to 6-11 on the season, and now awaits next week’s AA Flyers Cup opener at Warwick vs. top-seeded Central Bucks South.

Owen J. Roberts’ Dylan Gratton (28) carries the puck up ice during the first period Monday. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

In the nightcap, St. Joe’s Prep started fast then hung on to top Spring-Ford, 3-2. All the scoring took place in the first period, with Owen Moke registering a hat trick for the Hawks. Goals from Brenden DeSantis and Carson Porkka kept Spring-Ford within striking distance, but the Rams spent the final two periods unable to solve Prep goalie Michael Buchanan, who finished with 22 saves.

Spring-Ford, who dropped to 7-8-0-2 on the season, will continue its campaign vs. Conestoga in the Flyers Cup opening round March 6. Prep improved to 11-5-0-1.

Saint Joseph’s Prep’s Owen Moke (19) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period of Monday’s game against Spring-Ford. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

“Tough loss for sure,” offered Spring-Ford coach James Ginnetti. “We had a real chance to win this game.”

“We got outplayed those last two periods,” agreed Prep coach J.P. Colussi. “I give the credit to Michael (Buchanan)… he kept us in the game and he was the difference.”

Spring-Ford’s Keith William German (22) sends one into the zone while Saint Joseph’s Prep’s Paul Bradley (13) defends. (Thomas Nash – Digital First Media)

Thursday’s final takes place at 8:15 p.m., with OJR looking to avenge its only PAC defeat of the season, a 5-3 setback against St. Joe’s Prep back on December 1. But that offers no special motivation to Hatten and his teammates.

“I just want to win,” he repeated. “Doesn’t matter (who we play), I just want to win.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply