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Hockey: Craig’s gold-medal outing leads Garnet Valley past O’Hara

Garnet Valley's Andrew Craig makes a save on Cardinal O'Hara's John Shelton in the Jaguars 6-3 victory over the Lions Monday night at the Skatium. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

HAVERFORD — In case anyone doesn’t draw the connection to the name on the back of Andrew Craig’s jersey, the mask lets them in on the reference.

There’s some high-profile precedent for a hockey goalie with that last name. And while the Garnet Valley senior wears 29 between the pipes instead of 30 – worn by American Jim Craig at the 1980 Olympics – the mask artwork expands on the theme, opposing American and Soviet halves and a depiction of the Lake Placid gold medal on top.

“No, we’re not related,” Craig said. “I just really like the movie Miracle.”

Garnet Valley’s Nicholas Skiadas, center, celebrates his first-period goal with Kadon Longo, left, and Dylan Kouba. Skiadas’s goal helped Garnet Valley top Cardinal O’Hara, 6-3. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

They are related in the sense of Andrew Craig being good at stopping pucks, making 37 saves Monday night in leading Garnet Valley to a 6-3 nonleague win over Cardinal O’Hara at the Skatium.

Albeit with bulkier pads than Jim Craig could ever dream of, Andrew Craig showed a knack for the clutch Monday. He stoned O’Hara defenseman John Shelton on a partial breakaway on the first shift of the game, in what could’ve been an early momentum-shifter. Instead, the Jags (6-4-1) pumped home three goals in the first period to take a lead it would never relinquish.

The clean period wouldn’t end, though, until Craig said so. On a fast-developing sequence behind the cage with less than a second to play, the Jaguars failed to freeze the puck. O’Hara Andrew Graney set up Patrick Roney on the doorstep with just Craig to beat. All his shot found with the netminder’s yawning glove.

“It developed kind of quick,” Craig said. “I was looking in the corner and all of a sudden it was out in front. The guy had the whole net to shoot at, so I got a little bit lucky. I’m happy he put that in my glove.”

In case Craig’s influence wasn’t clear enough, Garnet Valley’s next goal laid bare the cause-and-effect. Craig flexed out a pad to kick away a short-handed chance by Braeden Jansen early in the second, the game at 3-1. The puck went straight to Latham Hutchinson, who rushed it up the ice and dropped for Dylan Kouba to ramp home a shot through traffic, deflecting off an O’Hara stick.

Those key moments went a long way toward Garnet Valley muzzling an O’Hara (6-4) offense that had blistered two Central League opponents for 10 each goals already this season.

“He’s a great goalie, he keeps us in a lot of games,” Kouba said. “… He makes a lot of amazing saves that change the game around for us. We can go down and build momentum in our zone off a great save. Odd-man rushes, I’m confident with him in net.”

He got plenty of help from his defenseman to narrow lanes, with Shelton and speedy forward Luke Melito getting north and south quickly. One of his biggest saves came on a Melito breakaway midway through the second. But more often than not, the defensive core of Matthew Abbonizio, Owen Doyle, Nolan Stott and Katrina Conway generally limited danger. Abbonizio and Doyle added assists.

“Melito is a really fast player,” Craig said. “He’s got a lot of speed to the outside, so I just told the guys, he’s going to try to beat you outside, so just cut him off, take down the angle.”

Garnet Valley’s Dylan Kouba fires a shot on Cardinal O’Hara goalie Liam Schlickling. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY TIMES)

All three O’Hara goals – from Melito, Shelton and Roney – came with an extra skater on the ice, two power-play tallies, one with the goalie pulled. Roney’s goal, which made it 5-3 with 1:45 to play, punched home just about the only loose rebound Craig allowed all night.

That was enough for Garnet Valley’s impressive young forwards. Kouba scored twice, including the empty-netter. He also set up Hutchinson’s first of two goals. Jake Robinson added two assists, the senior Kouba on a line with a pair of sophomores who have developed rapidly this season.

“They came in last year and I knew they had talent coming in, and we just had to put it together,” Kouba said. “We’ve really gained a lot of confidence in the last season, and they’ve exceeded all expectations this year.”

Hutchinson scored the biggest goal of the game. Shelton snuck home a five-hole shot on the man advantage 56 seconds into the third, but Hutchinson answered 12 seconds later, pinging a shot off post, crossbar and in.

“It’s a huge goal for us, put us back up by three, which was huge,” Kouba said. “O’Hara’s a pretty good team. It was great to go back up by three and have a lot of confidence in our offensive zone after that.”

O’Hara freshman Liam Shickling made 25 stops in goal. Shelton set up Melito’s goal, Melito needing two whacks to get it past Craig, who slid post-to-post well.

But more often than not, Craig had the answer. And they would leave the Jaguars feeling good about their defensive effort on the evening.

“It feels really nice, honestly,” Craig said. “I looked at their schedule and you kind of scout out every team and who they’ve played and how well they’ve done, who scores their goals. It’s nice because they’ve 10-0ed a couple of our rivals, and we came in here and got a nice win.”



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