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Central Hockey: Depth the difference as Haverford rolls past Radnor

HAVERFORD — The development of a secondary scoring line was always going to be instrumental to Haverford’s defense of the Central League and Flyers Cup titles. With scoring depth that was so vital last season diminished by graduation, already that was the focus.

So when Jagur McClelland went down with a broken foot in the fall, missing near half of the regular season, it merely accelerated an existing challenge, while ramping up the degree of difficulty.

The lessons learned without the reigning Daily Times Player of the Year were uncomfortable, but they are paying off for the Fords, who used their depth on the way to a 7-2 win over Radnor in the Central League semifinal Tuesday night at the Skatium.

McClelland did his usual bit, a casual hat trick with an assist. But the depth guys got the Fords going, in particular a potent and blue-collar second line.

“It definitely taught us how to get through some adversity,” said Aidan Brawley, the center of that second unit. “Without him, it’s tough. He’s a really good player, maybe the best in the league, and it taught us how to win tight games. Now that we have him back, it’s that much easier.”

Brawley tallied a goal and two assists. He got the scoring started 2:06 in by winning a draw forward, the puck nicking off goalie Luke Mallory on the way in.

“I talked to my defensemen right before, and he just told me not to win it back and just shoot it and I did,” Brawley said. “And it went in.”

Brawley added an assist on one of McClelland’s markers, but the chemistry he’s building with the second unit of Gus Scuderi and Owen Rabadam has been the most impressive. Brawley brings size and muscle in the corners. Scuderi, the shifty, diminutive winger, isn’t afraid to mix it up, and Rabadam balances those two.

It shows in moments like Scuderi’s goal, when the sophomore winger camped out in the slot while Rabadam and Brawley engaged in a 2-v-2 scrum in the corner, Rabadam poked the puck loose, and Brawley shoveled it blindly to the slot for Scuderi to rip home.

“It’s definitely good for our team to have another line that can score other than the first line,” Brawley said. “…We communicate, like on Scuderi’s goal, I didn’t even know he was there. He said something and I put it in his direction, and he scored.”

Scoring depth is exactly what Radnor knew it was without. The Raptors were fresh off Monday’s first-round win over Conestoga, a 7-6 affair. For a team that normally rolls just two lines and two defensive pairings, 51 minutes of hockey on consecutive nights would be a tough task.

Mallory kept them in it with 28 saves, but the disparity in zone time was just too great.

“We came into the game knowing that we were just as good as them, line for line, but we have less guys, so we had to shorten our shifts,” said Tucker Graham. “When we came out, they scored the first goal, we evened it up and that played a huge role in the momentum change of the game. I think that we battled. … The pucks didn’t bounce our way, and they had more skaters than we did.”

Despite Haverford having the edge in possession, Radnor was even four and a half minutes in, thanks to Ryan Carr finding a loose puck atop the crease and depositing it behind Jai Jani. Graham scored nine minutes into the second period to make it 3-2, on a 2-on-1 with Drew Knight where he dangled to change his shot angle and rifled one short-side.

“Down 3-1, we haven’t really at that point of the game gotten many chances towards the shot,” Graham said. “I had Drew coming on my right. I figured I’d fake the pass, stickhandle a couple of times, shoot short side and get the goalie while he wasn’t looking.”

Some aspects of the Fords, though, are too much to slow down. Like blueliner Nate Rabadam on a breakaway faking to the forehand and sliding a backhand across the grain and in. Or McClelland beating a pinching D-Man at the red line and firing home. Or McClelland and Nate Rabadam working the two-man game up high on a 4-on-3 before McClelland lasered in his third.

All of that was required to break the Raptors resolve.

“It’s really frustrating, especially with a guy like Nathan Rabadam out there every time you’re taking the puck up the ice,” Graham said. “He practically played the whole game tonight. It’s tough. You’ve got to stay disciplined, and if you don’t, you take a risk, sometimes it pays off. But other times, it’s 3-on-2 the other way, Jagur McClelland walking a D man and putting it in.”

Springfield 5, Strath Haven 4 >> The first order of business for Zach Crain was keeping the puck in the zone. The second was to create chaos.

Crain did both, his point blast weaving through traffic and in with 25 seconds to play to send the top-seeded Cougars to the final.

“With a little amount of time on the clock, I was just thinking to get a shot on net and crash and try to get rebounds,” Crain said. “Luckily it went in and it was a really nice goal, and there wasn’t a lot of time left so we could finish it out.”

It was tight as to whether Crain kept the puck in. But once he readied his heavy shot, fortune favored his effort, completing a hat trick and putting down the upset attempt by the Panthers.

Crain staked the Cougars to a 3-1 lead at 8:05 of the second period. He scored the opener just 17 seconds in when Strath Haven goalie Kadin Matotek couldn’t control the rebound of a Colin Hannigan shot. Five minutes later, Crain had the initial shot and Dominic Romolini cleaned up on the doorstep.

But Strath Haven wouldn’t give up. Its first goal, a drive from the red line by defenseman Sean Spanier that knuckled in, was a gift. But the Panthers, who beat Ridley Monday night, kept fighting, even with a limited rotation that included several players who played earlier in the day with the PennHaven girls team. Matotek kept the Panthers in it, credited with 59 saves, including a 10-bell stop in the first period on Romolini, diving out of his crease to get his glove on a rising effort.

Nick Dignazio and Josh Peabody scarcely left the ice. Dignazio had a shot go in off a Springfield defenseman on a power-play 2-on-1 with Peabody in the second period, then Peabody turned a a blueliner inside out before burying a shot to tie it at 3 with five minutes left in the second.

“You have to adapt to it because they’re very good players,” Crain said of that duo. “They can skate up and down the ice very quickly, and they’re always a threat to score. So every time they’re out there, you need to where they are out there at all times.”

Haven went ahead with 9:11 to play when Charlie Leuthold found a puck that had squirted from a battle on the boards and potted it. Haven killed a penalty soon after, but Hannigan tied the game with five minutes to play, Adam Baumann hitting him in the crease for a one-timer.

That set up Crain’s moment, which offers Springfield a crack at Haverford, the team it lost to by an 11-1 mercy-rule margin in last year’s final.

“We just want revenge,” Crain said. “That’s it.”

In the ISCHL Division 2 semifinals:

Marple Newtown 4, Sun Valley 0 >> Matthew Beatty turned back 42 shots as Marple Newtown advance to the championship game.

Sam Caroluzzi paced the offense with two goals. He scored once in the second period and again in the third. The Tigers will take on Archbishop Carroll-Pope John Paul in the championship game Thursday at IceLine.

Archbishop Carroll-Pope John Paul 5, Bishop Shanahan 2 >> Connor Walmsley, Alex Small and Mario Dewees scored in the first period to send AC-PJP into the D2 final.

Small led the way with one goal and one assist. Walmsley and Danny Harvey added one goal and one assist apiece. Wesley Sweitzer handed out two assists.

Girls Hockey

Sophie Grant collected three goals and two assists to power PennHaven into the ICSHL National championship game with a 7-3 victory over Downingtown West at IceLine.

PennHaven scored four times in the second period to erase a 2-1 deficit. Grant had one goal and one assist in that period. Bonnie Mundy added one goal and three assists, while Delaney Hewlings and Annika Sullivan added one goal and two assists each.

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