SOL Flyers Cup AA Semifinal Preview (3-12-17)

 

Brian Good previews Monday night’s Flyers Cup semifinals which feature a trio of SOL teams.

By Brian Good

At the beginning of the year, every team has the same goal in mind. Sure, some may start small with things like improving a certain aspect of their game or nailing down the fundamentals, but for the most part every team in the Eastern Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey Association (EPIHA) is chasing one thing, the Flyers Cup.

For most, that goal is no longer a possibility. The majority of teams either didn’t qualify for the Cup or were bounced too early to really ever have a chance. However, for Central Bucks West, William Tennent, Central Bucks South, and Downingtown East, the last four teams remaining in the “AA” Flyers Cup, that dream is still alive.

Monday night the semifinals will officially start, and those final four teams will fight for the chance to reach the pinnacle of high school hockey in the Philadelphia area. For some, it will be the last time they ever play competitive hockey. For others, their careers will continue well past this week, but no matter what happens one thing is for sure, two teams will be one step closer to the ultimate goal of winning a Flyers cup and two others will be going home empty handed.

Monday – March 6th, 2017
No. 1 Central Bucks West Bucks vs. No. 4 William Tennent Panthers
at Hatfield – 7:45 pm

When teams get this deep into the postseason, it’s supposed to be a celebration of what they’ve accomplished to this point. Unfortunately for CB West, they’ve been dealing with a much different reality after what unfolded at the end of their quarterfinal match against Ridley.

With seven minutes to go and West leading 7-1, a brawl erupted that forced the officials to stop the game and disqualify Ridley from competition. The West players, who by all accounts were essentially innocent bystanders in the matter, now go into the biggest game of their season without their top-two defensemen, Shawn Philipps and Brandon Savona, who sustained injuries in the scrum.

Although unfortunate for the Bucks, it’s something they have to deal with as they gear up for a familiar opponent in William Tennent.

“Tennent is a team that I’ve had respect for and expected them to finish among the top teams and they have done just that all season long,’ said CB West head coach Dave Baun. “I watch Tennent play this season, and obviously we played them, and I think they’re an outstanding team that has the talent to win the whole thing.’

CB West, the tournaments #1 seed, went through the entire regular season undefeated, including a 2-1 win over Tennent in late January, and the Bucks seemed to be unbeatable as they got ready for the postseason.

Then, in the second round of the SHSHL playoffs, they did something they hadn’t done all season long – they lost.

That loss, a 5-4 defeat at the hands of Council Rock South, left Baun feeling unsure how his team would rebound in the Flyers Cup, but they quickly answered those questions.

The Bucks have outscored their opponents 12-2 in their first two games and proven exactly why they earned that No. 1 overall seed, showcasing their suffocating defense and outstanding goaltending from Jonah Brous.

“I think after that loss to CR South in the playoffs, our team was a little bit fragile,” said Baun. “Having said that, our team has been able to bounce back thanks to great senior leadership and support, with a great opening round win over Parkland and then another very good game against Ridley.’

Brous, who led the SHSHL in save percentage and was second in wins and GAA, has continued his stellar year in the postseason. His ability to anchor an already outstanding defensive unit is what has separated the Bucks from every other team.

On the other hand, Tennent is a unit built similarly to CB West. They have a big, physical defensive unit anchored by Chris Kreider and are supported by the goaltending of their own standout net minder, Eric Lineman.

Lineman has been the key to the Panthers’ deep postseason run, as well as their regular season SHSHL National crown, stopping basically anything that comes his way.

“Eric played at an elite level towards the end of the season and has absolutely continued that through the playoffs,’ said William Tennent head coach Nick D’Aurizio. “He’s been playing this way for three months now. Thursday night (in a 5-4 overtime win over Haverford), he made a post-to-post save where everybody in the rink thought the puck was already in the net, but somehow he made this unbelievable save. That’s what has made him great, his ability to keep us in games.”

The Panthers also have a plethora of talented scorers on their roster to go along with their big defense and top-end goaltending and that could be their biggest advantage in the game.

Three Tennent forwards finished the season with more than 40 points (Sean Ovington, Bobby Markus, Jack McKeever) and that ability to score may be the difference maker.

When they met in January, Tennent only managed 22 shots on net, but based on how they’ve been playing as of late and with the Bucks missing their top two defensemen, that number should go up.

This game will be a battle with both teams understanding just how much is on the line, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Tennent attack wears down the Bucks for a late goal to steal the upset and earn themselves a spot in the Flyers Cup championship game.

PREDICTION: William Tennent over CB West 3-2.

Monday – March 6th, 2017
 No. 2 Central Bucks South Titans vs. No. 3 Downingtown East Cougars
@ Warwick – 8:15 pm

For the third year in a row CB South and Downingtown East will meet in the Flyers Cup, and if past year’s matchups are any indication of how this one will play out, the spectators are in for a show.

Last year, it was the Titans that came away with the 3-2 win over the Cougars in the championship game. In 2015, it was Downingtown East that ended up winning, this time in the semifinals, but they also went on to win the entire tournament.

“We always seem to find each other in this tournament,’ said CB South head coach Shaun McGinty about meeting Downingtown East in the postseason. “It’s been three or four years in a row now that we’ve faced them and it’s fun - it’s built up a sort of rivalry. The boys on both teams need to just be ready to go, and if that happens, we could be in for another great matchup with them.”

Like CB West and Tennent and pretty much every successful hockey team at any level, it all starts with goaltending for the Titans.

Goalie Kevin Dorozinsky has missed time throughout the season due to scheduling conflicts but will be in net for the CB South going forward.

Another advantage the Titans have over almost any team they face is their ability to score at the forward position, specifically in Matt Stoll and Joe DeLaurentis.

Stoll finished the season with 52 points, good for second in the entire SHSHL, and was an offensive game changer all season long.

DeLaurentis notched 35 points of his own on the year in just 19 games played and is a notoriously unselfish player. The combination of the two players gives the Titans an advantage over almost any team, and it’s not even entirely due to their skill.

The two are experienced leaders off the ice as well, having made multiple deep runs in the postseason before, including two state championships. Their ability to not only lead with their play but also draw from past championship experiences gives CB South an advantage that other teams just don’t have.

“Whether they know it or not, they’re teaching our young players what to do and how to act,” said McGinty. “Joey DeLaurentis said it in an interview in the past, he said ‘We are CB South’ and that stuck out to me. For someone as talented as he is to just always be thinking of the team, that’s a kid that understands what it takes to get it done and they’ve slowly built that culture with this year’s team.”

Downingtown East is obviously no stranger to the Flyers Cup tournament, having won it all in 2015, but they don’t have the same type of experience that South boasts.

Getting Dorozinsky back between the pipes will be a huge boost to a team that already frustrates opposing offenses and will allow them to let their talented forwards do what they do best – score goals.

Expect this matchup to be slightly higher scoring than the other semifinal, but look for CB South to come out on top.

PREDICTION: CB South over Downingtown East 5-3.