Smith: Haven, Sun Valley celebrate upset victories
Chuck Smith, Special to the Times01/16/2006
Friday the 13th turned into upset night in Delco as two league frontrunners were bounced by young, hungry teams. Strath Haven used a gallant defensive effort, great goaltending, and timely scoring to beat defending Class A state champion and archrival Penncrest, 2-1, while Sun Valley stormed past ICSHL Class A leader Perkiomen Valley, 4-2.
The Panthers were ecstatic after their triumph.
"We’re in the third year of this rebuilding and just now you’re beginning to see it come together," said Strath Haven coach Larry Sechuk. "The effort the kids put out was Herculean.
"In the third period we were committed to keeping pressure on them. We were running a trap and catching them, neutralizing their rush, and dumping the puck right back down the ice. Our goalie Steven Deinenger (30 saves) was outstanding, too."
Two big components of the win were versatile Ben Slagis, who plays both offense and defense at times, and standout-sophomore defenseman Tucker Emmons.
Both players are thrilled with the progress the team has made this season and are looking forward to the rest of the season.
"That was the biggest win we’ve had all season and it was the culmination of all of our hard work," said Slagis. "This is the game that will turn us around and our goalie just played out of his mind."
Emmons agreed with Slagis.
"This was definitely the turning point in our season, it was unbelievable," Emmons said. "I think right now we just want it more than other teams and we have more skilled hockey players here than we had last year."
Sean O’Brien and Michael Florio had the goals for Strath Haven in the victory.
Sun Valley’s big win was the result of some excellent goaltending and defense, along with a fast start. The Vanguards had three first-period goals, but needed players like defenseman Bob Kozak and goalie Dan Stuart to seal the deal.
Stuart, a former defenseman who played goaltender in roller hockey but never on ice before this season, impressed his coach and think that the win could help jump-start the Vanguards.
"The team played with a lot of heart and it was probably the best game that I have ever seen the team play," said Stuart, who had 30 saves in the win over the Vikings. "I think we can play like this every game and this helps let us know that we can do it.
"I’m glad that I moved to goaltender to play for this team and I feel really good about what we are capable of."
The win was especially sweet for Sun Valley since the Vikings knocked off the Vanguards, 9-0, in November.
Ridley forward Bill Fox’s stat line is impressive, but it is even more noteworthy because the talented sophomore was decimated by a broken jaw and the subsequent recovery.
Fox lost almost 30 pounds with the injury he sustained during football season, but knew he had the desire to get himself back into playing shape.
"I’m not even sure that I’m all the way back yet," said Fox. "When I got healthy I just got back into working out, lifting weights, and skating trying to get my legs back."
Fox’s determination is paying dividends as he has tallied 11 goals and five assists for 16 points in 13 games.
Garnet Valley’s convincing 5-2 victory over Springfield last Monday night was clear indication that the Jaguars are a legitimate and serious contender in the ICSHL Class A Central Division and in the postseason Flyers Cup Class A tournament.
Garnet Valley has a great mix of veterans and youth as seniors like M.J. Gibbons, Mike Sheridan, Andrew Schlert (currently injured), Chris Zizza and goaltender Steve Clark have formed a great chemistry with juniors, sophomores, and freshmen like Kevin D’Pasquale, Matt Contipodero, Greg Strootman and Brian Newman.
"It feels good to be where we are as a team right now," said Gibbons. "We’re right up at the top near Penncrest and I can’t wait to play them again.
"The first time we played them it just wasn’t us. They didn’t see the team that has been playing well lately. We know they are a good team, but we want to prove that we are right there with them."
- Game of the week:
Garnet Valley vs. Lower Merion, tonight (9:15) at Power Play in Exton.
This is a big-time revenge game for the Jags, who were shocked by the Aces, 3-1, Nov. 23. Garnet Valley might have been a little guilty of looking past Lower Merion on its way to a showdown against Penncrest, but the Jags will surely be focused on keeping Lower Merion below them in the standings this time.
While Garnet Valley is playing stellar hockey right now, the Aces are not too shabby, either. Led by leading scorer Michael Lundy (23 points) and goaltender Will Neifeld (6-2-2, 2.07 GAA, 93.8 save percentage), Lower Merion is a proven squad in the ICSHL Class A Central Division.
As stated earlier in this column, the Jags have a host of veteran players playing well, but will still be without Schlert (12 points). The defensive unit of D’Pasquale, Doug Marshall, Tim Montgomery, Steve Seiler, Jim Fedena and Newman have been a solid defensive unit in front of Clark (8-2-0, 1.90 GAA, 91.5 save percentage) all season and will need to continue that play.
While the predictions in the Hockey Notebook have not exactly been up the normal standards of excellence expected here, I’ll give it another shot.
Prediction: Garnet Valley 3, Lower Merion 1.
To contact Chuck Smith, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
©The Daily Times 2006