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Hockey: Knight, Graham help keep Radnor in a zone in win over Garnet Valley

WEST GOSHEN — The sequence in the first period seemed innocent, but it would set the tone for the rest of the game. Once, then twice, then three times, Radnor’s defensemen kept the puck in the zone, preventing Garnet Valley from clearing the blue line and changing personnel.

Eventually, the puck would get out and the danger of the moment would be defused. But the tone was also set. And by the third period, when the Ice Line ice got slower and the legs got heavier, it would make a difference.

The Raptors’ zone discipline helped produce a wide shot disparity and a 9-5 Central League hockey win over Garnet Valley.

That first period gave Radnor all the cushion it would need, leading 4-1 after 17 minutes. It came on the back of a 22-4 edge in shots. And while Radnor may have felt unlucky to have beaten goalie Andrew Craig just four times, it planted the seeds for later in the night.

“Especially in the first period, putting a lot of pressure on them, it wears them out,” Radnor forward Drew Knight said. “If we get that pressure in the first period, it’s going to wear them out the rest of the game and they’re going to be exhausted by the third period. It seemed to me that by the third period, their defensemen were letting us skate through them because they were gassed.”

It didn’t take Radnor that long to reach that point. Entering Friday, Knight and Tucker Graham had combined for 23 of Radnor’s 32 goals on the season. They accounted for six on this night, each scoring a hat trick and combining for three assists.

The junior Knight scored twice in the second period as Radnor absorbed Garnet Valley’s best punch and still led 6-4 at the second intermission. Graham, a sophomore, tallied twice in the third period. Each goal came when Graham snared a clearing attempt – once on the point on the power play, once circling in the high slot 5-on-5 – walked in and wired a shot past Craig.

“Holding them in the zone makes them tired, and it creates more time and more space to move the puck,” Radnor defenseman Connor Baumann said. “And it creates more turnovers.”

Radnor got an early boost from Hajoon Kim. Given the dominance of Graham and Knight on the scoring charts, any scoring contribution is welcome. So Kim, given shifts with the top guys, responded.

The first was an unassisted tally, Kim grabbing a loose puck, making a move and scoring. The second was served up on a platter by Graham.

“Getting contributions from everywhere is always huge,” Knight said. “Especially a guy like Hajoon, he’s been up and down with us in terms of playing varsity and JV. He’s at every practice, always working his hardest, grinding to get better, and he’s a great teammate. Everyone loves him.”

Garnet Valley responded from the one-sided opening period. The Jaguars scored 24 seconds into the second via Dylan Kouba, then made it two goals in the first 69 seconds when Drew Morrow drove the crease on a rush and shoveled home a Tyler Cymbala centering feed.

“We started moving our feet a little bit more, getting our heads up, moving the puck,” Cymbala said. “And we got some quick goals.”

Morrow’s goal would be the only even-strength tally for the Jags, who were 4-for-6 on the power play. Ryan Nardone scored from his belly on the crease in the first period, then set up Kouba’s first man-advantage marker and had Kouba reciprocate in the third when he lifted a d-man’s stick behind the net and fed Nardone in the slot.

Garnet Valley got no closer than one goal. Knight scored twice, extending the lead to 6-3 at 11:40 of the second thanks to a Baumann slap-pass from the point that Knight needed only nudge home at the back post.

“I told him on the faceoff, just go back door,” Baumann said. “I knew their defense was on the weaker side, so I told him to go back door and he’d be wide open, and I just found him.”

Nicholas Skiadas got Garnet within 6-4, and the deficit could’ve been halved had Kouba not rattled the crossbar behind Luke Mallory (19 saves).

Craig made 44 saves in the other cage but tired from the workload late.

Knight and Graham didn’t see much ice time together, Radnor needing to share the playmaking wealth. They were together on a penalty kill in the first period that led to Knight’s first goal, Graham assisting.

That responsibility is something both leaders, though still underclassmen, embrace.

“Making everyone around us better is a key thing,” Knight said. “Everyone else is capable of performing on their own, so adding that chemistry and working hard with one another, it’s for the better and it’s a lot of fun.”

In D2 action:

Sun Valley 9, Lower Merion 1 >> Nate Benz scored four times, and Julian Diehl added two goals and an assist as the Vanguards scored the first eight goals to move to 10-0. Brian States and Noah Migatz tallied a goal and two assists each.

Marple Newtown 10, Bux Mont Catholic 1 >> Zachery Dembzynnski and Tenzee Z’Ningray each tallied a hat trick and combined for three assists as the Tigers rolled.

In a crossover game:

W.C. Henderson 5, Strath Haven 3 >> Nick Dignazio scored and set up Sean Spanier’s equalizer in the third period, but Aiden Laverty’s second goal of the game put Henderson ahead in a rematch of last year’s Flyers Cup A semifinal.

Dignazio had a hand in all three goals. Charles Leuthold also scored for Haven, and Kadin Matokek stopped 29 shots.

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