HATFIELD TWP. >> The North Penn ice hockey team had all 18 of the shots it put on net in the first period stopped by Ridley goalie Nicholas Giuliano. But all that effort was not in vain for the Knights.
“I think we really set the tempo out and kind of like took the wind out of them even though we didn’t put a goal in the net,” North Penn’s Thomas Boyle said. “And I think that still spurred momentum for us and that was why we were able to come out and the beginning of the next period and pop two goals pretty quick.”
The fourth-seeded Knights struck twice in a span of 30 seconds to grab a 2-0 lead 1:36 into the second period of Tuesday night’s Flyers Cup AA first round contest with the No. 13 Raiders. North Penn then held off Ridley before scoring twice late in the third to advance with a 4-1 victory at Hatfield Ice.
“We told the guys first period we had a ton of jump which we needed cause the two games we played last week in the Suburban League playoffs we didn’t have as much jump as we needed,” Knights coach Kevin Vaitis said. “But tonight we came out ready to play and told the guys we outshot them 18-5 in the first period nothing changes, stick to the game plan, pucks are going to go in.”
Boyle gave NP a 3-1 edge on his power-play goal with 2:32 left in regulation while Tyler Greenstein added a goal and assist as the Knights move on to face No. 5 Downingtown West in the quarterfinals 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Hatfield Ice. West topped No. 12 Pennsbury 7-3 in its first-round contest.
“I think we just have to come out like we did today and use our speed,” Boyle said. “And play as a team and pick each other up when we need to and just play our game.
Goals from Josh Kaufhold and Ryan Cunningham gave North Penn the 2-0 lead before Ron Higgins pulled Ridley within one at 3:19 in the second period.
Higgins had a chance at an equalizer late in the third on a short-handed breakaway, but Cunningham’s diving back check helped NP goalie Nick Ebbinghaus deny the opportunity.
Boyle then found the back of the next on the Knights’ next trip into the attacking zone by redirecting a Luke Van Why wrister.
“That shorthanded breakaway was big,” Vaitis said. “Coming out of the timeout there that’s not how we drew it up but they got a nice break there, Cunningham with a nice back check, Ebbinghaus with the big save. And really turning point there, 2-1 game at that point.”
Greenstein tacked on an empty-net goal with 15.9 seconds left.
“Not that we played a great third period, to be honest, they outplayed the first two periods but we turn it around, we adjusted a little bit in the third period and we play a lot better,” Ridley coach Stephane Charbonneau said. “We had a breakaway on a penalty killing, could be (a chance to) tie the game with seven minutes but we didn’t put it in.”
“I thought they’re a great team, they move the puck well, they got good players, solid goalie and, you know, that’s playoffs. You know, that’s Flyers Cup.”
Giuliano gave Ridley a chance to pull off the upset as the netminder made 33 saves on 37 shots.
“He was big and he was a solid goalie, he was making solid saves,” Boyle said. “He was all over us and we didn’t have too much traffic in front of him.”
Ebbinghaus saved 17 of the 18 shots he faced for the Knights.
“Defensively it was really trying to shut down they had a couple tough forwards that they have out there, really trying to kind of neutralize them,” Vaitis said. “We have a strong D back there, but we talk to the team about collectively it’s all five playing strong D in our zone. I think through two periods there our shots were like 30-9 so we really beared down defensively and that’s what we needed to do tonight.”
North Penn began the second period on the power play and took advantage when Kaufhold knocked in a rebound after a Greenstein shot at 14:54. Cunningham score at 14:24 and in a 30-second flash the Knights were up two.
“The kind of the attitude on the bench was all upbeat and we just kind of kept of preaching that look the pucks are going to start to go in and we stuck to that,” Vaitis said. “And sure enough we had two go in there early in the second, kind of get that 2-0 lead and we just continue to work and continue to battle. They’re a good hockey team down there, their goalie played outstanding and they had a great season.”
Ridley made it 2-1 late in the second after Thomas Avellino stole the puck in the offensive zone then sent it toward the net where Higgins redirected it in at 3:19.
“We close the gap in our defense,” Charbonneau said. “I told them to close the gap and create a turnover, made it a 2-on-1 and a little tip in front and create a good chance to score some goals. And you got to press people if you want to create some offense.”
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