GRATERFORD >> The most remarkable thing about Perkiomen Valley’s postgame celebration?
It was completely unremarkable.
The Vikings rallied from a three-goal deficit, holding visiting Spring-Ford scoreless for the game’s last 15 minutes and getting a game-winning goal from senior Matt Horgan with 3:58 to play to claim a season-changing 11-10 win Tuesday night.
Perkiomen Valley celebrated, as any team who’s withstood an up-and-down season would after scoring a home win over a favored archrival.
But that’s all they did. There were no Gatorade showers, no claims of saving the season, just a triumphant group happy to have sealed the No. 1 spot in next week’s PAC Final Four.
In short, the Vikings behaved like a team who expected to be right where they were.
“It’s a big step, but it’s only the first step,” said senior attackman Shea Fusco, who led PV with seven points (goal, six assists) on Tuesday. “It’s a confidence booster, because that’s a good team and now we know we can hang with them.”
Hanging with the Rams was possible early because of Noah Delo’s work at the faceoff stripe, where he claimed eight of 12 first-half draws and gave PV enough possessions to stay within striking distance.
Spring-Ford built a 3-0 lead on a pair of tallies from Brady Welsh eight minutes into the contest. Bryce Coletta’s first of four goals broke the ice for PV, but the Rams’ lead would grow as large as 6-2 before PV senior Brad Curci (three goals, assist) struck twice within a minute to rally the Vikings within two.
The third quarter belonged to the respective No. 9s for each team – PV’s Fusco, who scored once and assisted on the Vikings’ other three goals in the period, and Spring-Ford’s Justin Wixted, whose consecutive goals occurred only 12 seconds apart, rebuilding the visitors’ lead to 10-7.
That’s when the duo of Coletta and Fusco took over for PV on attack. They connected twice in the opening minutes of the period to bring the game back to 10-all.
“Shea and I have been working that two-man game since early this season,” said Coletta. “It’s about giving everyone the best looks they can get. That’s what allows us to have success.”
“I definitely see myself as a pass-first guy,” said Fusco. “Having guys like Bryce shooting the ball well allows me to fill that role.”
It wasn’t just Coletta on Tuesday – Curci and Horgan added hat tricks, the latter closing out his night with the eventual game-winner off Drew Donato’s caused turnover. It took until 3:58 remained in the contest, but PV had its first lead at 11-10.
Matt Horgan puts PV up 11-10, 3:58 4Q. PVs first lead of the game pic.twitter.com/Px5gb7qWyW
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) May 3, 2023
With the game in the balance and the chance to claim at least a share of the regular season PAC title, Perkiomen Valley turned to the youngest player on the field.
Freshman goalie Christian Jones made his varsity debut just one week ago against Boyertown. Suddenly, he found himself staring down the PAC’s leading offense in crunch time. But Jones never blinked.
Spring-Ford’s Mike Bendowski stole the ball from a Viking around midfield and found Colin Song down the alley, but Jones turned him aside. Brady Welsh, who had two goals and an assist for the Rams, had another opportunity with just over a minute to play but Jones was again equal to the task.
Huge save PV. 11-10 under 2 left pic.twitter.com/mqvdgbW6yC
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) May 3, 2023
Last week, PV stood at 5-6 in the season with their postseason status in limbo. It’s amazing what a four-game winning streak can do for a team’s prospects.
Tuesday’s win, coupled with other district results, could move the Vikings into the Top 16 and provide an opportunity to host a first-round playoff contest.
“I know we haven’t had much success against Spring-Ford in the past,” said Jones. “I’m glad we were able to change that tonight.”
Spring-Ford (12-3, 7-1 PAC) got two goals each from Welsh, Wixted, and Lance Terrizzi in the loss. The Rams’ inability to put the Vikings away started with PV’s dogged determination in the ride, forcing several turnovers on clears.
But some uncharacteristic Spring-Ford sloppiness played a role as well. The Rams were penalized six times, with Perkiomen Valley scoring twice and getting two more goals before a player release could even up the numbers in the box.
“Give them credit – PV played well and played with enthusiasm, and we did not respond,” said Spring-Ford Kevin Donnelly. “We haven’t turned the ball over like that all year.”
Ranked No. 3 in District 1-3A entering play, Spring-Ford still figures to hold onto a top-eight seed for the District, but drops to No. 2 for the PAC Final Four, to be held right back at Perkiomen Valley next week.
If both teams can survive their semifinal matchups, which are still to be determined, a rematch would occur on May 11.
“We’ve been playing pretty well so far,” said Donnelly. “We had a bad night tonight, and now we need to get right on Thursday (against Methacton).”
For Perkiomen Valley (9-6, 8-0 PAC), the win all but clinches a spot in the District playoffs. As impressive as the Vikings were in the second half Tuesday, that spot was in great peril as recently as one week ago (the top 24 Class 3A teams qualify for Districts.)
Jones summarized the changes in the Vikings from the start of the 2023 season until now, as well as how the team seemingly evolved in terms of confidence and maturity from the start to the finish of Tuesday night’s game.
“When we started out down, my teammates brought me back up,” he said. “Our chemistry allows us to stay together in the tough spots. It’s on to the next play until the clock hits zero – then it’s time to celebrate.”
But not too much.
Perkiomen Valley 11, Spring-Ford 10
Brady Welsh 2 goals, assist
Justin Wixted 2 goals
Lance Terrizzi 2 goals
Will Fish goal, 2 assists
Hayden Wedemeyer goal, assist
Ian Evans goal
Colin Song goal
Sean Hassis assist
Charlie Power 4 saves
Bryce Coletta 4 goals, assist
Matt Horgan 3 goals, assist
Brad Curci 3 goals, assist
Shea Fusco goal, 6 assists
Christian Jones 8 saves
Noah Delo 13/20 faceoffs