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Abington starts fast, advances past Quakertown in SHSHL American semifinals

Abington's Jordan Heydt (47) gets a shot past Quakertown goalie Matthew Krem during the second period of their playoff semifinal on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Kev Hunter, MediaNews.

HATFIELD TWP. >> Even before the puck was dropped, Sam Nemec had a feeling it was Abington’s night.

“I could tell it in the players’ eyes that we wanted this game,” the Ghosts’ goalie said of Thursday’s playoff semifinal with rival Quakertown. “This is my first ever playoff start and there were only two options: win or lose. I had a win on my mind today and I just wanted to keep the team in it as long as I could.”

Sam Nemec minds the net for Abington in its playoff contest with Quakertown on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Kev Hunter, MediaNews.

Nemec, alternating starts wonderfully this year with Ben Panella, secured 23 saves and had a shutout into the third period. Abington struck fast, got the “dirty goals” to widen the gap and emerged clean with a solid 6-2 victory over the Panthers in the Suburban High School Hockey League American Division Semis at packed Hatfield Ice.

“We came out strong, stronger than usual,” Nemec said of the Ghosts, and that’s saying something, given that Abington was a perfect 12-0 in the American this year.

The win advances the Ghosts to Thursday’s Final, back at Hatfield Ice at 8:30 p.m., against either Wissahickon or PW.

Strong goaltending continues to be a big piece to the puzzle for the Ghosts.

“I know it’s Ben’s last year as a senior and I’m gonna support him every single game,” said Nemec. “And he supports me right back. I’ve played with Ben for six years and he’s been my mentor this whole time.”

Jordan Heydt scored two goals for Abington in its semifinal win over Quakertown on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Kev Hunter, MediaNews.

The Ghosts put 11 shots on goal in the first period and put two away.

Matt Kramer scored off an assist by Joe Stelacio to put Abington on the board, and then the lead doubled to 2-0 on an unassisted tally by Jordan Heydt.

Midway through the second, Heydt scored again, this time off a pass from Sean Doyle.

“I definitely surprised myself,” said a smiling Heydt of his multi-goal game. “I just did what I could with it. The quick start really helped us out.

“I was just ready to take the opportunities that I saw and that’s what I did.”

Sam Nemec got the win in net for Abington in its semifinal victory over Quakertown on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Kev Hunter, MediaNews.

When Stelacio set up Ryan Portner late in the second, the Abington lead had grown to 4-0.

“It’s kind of what we’ve been doing all year, which is just working hard. Our philosophy is carry the puck wide, get it deep, and go to work,” said Ghosts coach Ken Brzozowski. “We have some skilled guys that have some pretty good hands. They find a little open space and usually we have some good luck with the puck.”

Abington also capitalized on rebounds, including Kramer’s second tally (Heydt assist), which helped put things away at 5-2 after the Panthers had crept closer in the third.

“We try to get pucks on net, make the extra pass, and then if we get that rebound, we can put that dirty goal in,” said Brzozowski. “I’ve been coaching for a long time and sometimes it’s that dirty goal off a rebound that makes a big difference.

“Jordan put two pucks in the net early and got us going. We kind of needed a little jump start and he’s one of those x-factors that we have, and to see him have a great night, putting pucks in the net, is huge for him.”

Abington celebrates a goal during its win over Quakertown on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Kev Hunter, MediaNews.

Anthony Pagliei and Lucas Cunnane (William Shaw assist) scored for the Panthers, and Matthew Krem made 20 saves.

Sam Paulik capped the scoring for Abington, off an assist by Patrick Stelacio.

“This game’s over with and now we gotta look forward to next week,” said Heydt.

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