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O’Connor’s double duty pays off for Springfield

ASTON >> The wakeup call for Ryan O’Connor came early on Tuesday morning.

On the docket for the Springfield junior: An 11 a.m. lacrosse game. Then at 9 p.m., a Central League hockey semifinal against Ridley. Teammate times two Colin Hannigan was in the same boat.

That overlap was expected, with the hockey season, usually starting in October, backed up to January by the COVID-19 pandemic, its postseason stretching uncharacteristically into April. On the order of adversity that the last year has presented, O’Connor files this under good problems to have.

“Bouncing from lacrosse to hockey has been rough, but we’ve been getting through it, me and Colin,” O’Connor said. “… I love the sports I play, and getting after it every day with my boys is an awesome feeling.”

It worked for O’Connor and Springfield on both accounts, with a 7-3 win over Ridley to advance to the Central League final Tuesday night at IceWorks. It came on the heels of O’Connor, a defender in lacrosse who’s committed to Villanova, helping Springfield to a 9-8 win over Wissahickon.

On the ice, O’Connor, a defenseman and captain, assisted on the opening goal for the Cougars and led a solid performance that led to a 6-0 lead and weathering a late Ridley charge.

Dominic Romolini scored twice and set up Zach Crain’s crucial third-period momentum-shifter as the No. 2 Cougars booked a rematch of last year’s final with Haverford. Crain scored twice, both off primary assists from Romolini. His second, dangling past a defenseman at 6:09 of the third, interrupted a spell of momentum in which the Green Raiders had scored two straight goals and twice rang the iron.

The Green Raiders didn’t give in when Springfield went up 6-0. Dan Lawless scored on the power play, then saw John Zebley tip home his point drive to make it 6-2 in the final minute of the period.

“I think we just got comfortable with that six-goal lead,” O’Connor said. “We came together and we had to get back to the basics, getting the puck deep and chasing it.”

“It was a really good energy boost,” Ridley goalie Nick Giuliano said. “But then we had the end of the second, came back to the locker room and it kind of fell off to start the third. All we did is give effort, and that’s all that matters.”

Ridley pushed early in the third, with Connor Gluck ringing the post on a 2-on-1 and the net dislodging before it could skitter across the line behind goalie Tyler Philiposian, and then Justin Chiango rattled the iron to the right of Philiposian.

Springfield got off to the faster start, with Romolini scoring 2:18 in on the power play. Zach Perkins fired one home through traffic five minutes later, the Cougars holding a 13-4 edge in shots in the opening 16 minutes. Many of them came with Giuliano screened, the first two goals on seeing-eye shots through traffic.

“After those two goals, you just have to think, you have to play your game. It’s not your fault,” said Giuliano, who finished with 30 saves. “You have to play your game and keep the mentality that there’s always the next one, and you can’t let that get to you.”

Romolini scored 1:22 into the second off a Crain feed, and Scott Francis tallied 15 seconds later as the Cougars threatened to run and hide. Goals by Adam Baumann and Crain made it 6-0 before Ridley capitalized twice on the power play, the Cougars going to the box too often.

Crain made it 7-2 before a Colin Huppman goal in the third for Ridley. Philiposian finished with 16 saves, and O’Connor and company saw the result out comfortably to book a rematch in the Central League final with Haverford, the Cougars having taken last year’s game in overtime.

“I know they’re going to be coming out for revenge,” O’Connor said. “Just like last year, no one thinks we’re going to win this game except for us, so we’re ready to get after it.”

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