The sight of teammates mobbing each other in jubilation, while their exhausted opponents looked on in disbelief, was played out four times this month during one of the wildest Flyers Cup Scholastic Championship tournaments ever.
For the first time in Flyers Cup history, two of the championship games (AAA and A) were decided in sudden-death overtime. The other two Finals (AA and Girls) went down to the wire as well, with last-minute flurries almost forcing overtime before empty net goals extinguished the drama.
If you weren’t among the 10,000+ fans that attended the 2011 Flyers Cup tournament, here is what you missed: AAA Final: La Salle 3, Malvern Prep 2 (OT)
Sophomore Nick Master deposited the game-winner just 1:12 into overtime to give #1 seed La Salle its third AAA title in the past four years, and fifth overall. After a scoreless first period at the Wells Fargo Center, third-seeded Malvern struck first with tallies by Ryan Kavanaugh and Zachary Olah in the 2nd frame.
Trailing 2-0 as the game headed into the 3rd period, La Salle cut the lead in half with an early goal (41 seconds in) by CJ Dunton. Less than three minutes later, Matt Williams fired one toward the net with several players crashing. The goal posts became dislodged from their moorings at almost the exact time the puck crossed the goal line, and after a brief discussion amongst the officials, it was declared a goal. The teams traded scoring chances throughout the final minutes, but the game remained deadlocked through regulation time.
A minute into the first overtime, Master controlled the puck after a face off and skated toward the left corner. He snapped a shot from a tough angle that somehow squeaked through Malvern goalie Ryan Polischuk, who played admirably (28 saves). As a reward for his overtime heroics, Master earned the Bobby Clarke Award as tournament MVP.
After the awarding of the individual trophies (including the Toyota Three Stars of the Game and All-Tournament team), Flyers legends Bob Kelly and Bernie Parent handed the 3-foot tall Flyers Cup to the La Salle captains, who kissed the trophy, held it high, and skated it straight to their exuberant student section. AA Final: Council Rock South 5, Central Bucks East 2
Top-seeded Council Rock South returned to the AA Final for the third consecutive year, looking to avenge last year’s loss to Downingtown East in the title game. They were clearly a team on a mission all season long. Several standout players from the 2009 championship team were looking for one last shot at Flyers Cup glory, most notably leading scorer Patrick Grilli (71 points in 26 games) and defenseman Zack Goodman (25 points in 19 games).
Since losing to CR South, 4-3, back on January 6, second-seeded CB East had gone unbeaten in their last 14 games. They came out flying in the AA Final, outshooting CR South in the first period by a 14-4 margin, played in front of an overflow crowd at the Bucks County Ice Sports Center. South weathered the storm and was able to escape the opening period tied 1-1.
Senior Greg Aquaro potted the game winner late in the second period, and goals by Mitchell Vaysman and Tom Kozior helped CR South build a 4-1 lead with 10:23 remaining. Austin Cinalli scored just 10 seconds later to get CB East within two. Moments later, East went to work on the power play and nearly scored on several occasions, all of which were thwarted by the stellar goaltending of Steve Jastrow (who was later named the Flyers Cup AA MVP). A last-minute empty netter by Kyle Walter sealed the win for Council Rock South, and the wild on-ice revelry had begun. A Final: Springfield 3, Unionville 2 (OT)
Ice Line Arena in West Chester was buzzing throughout the Class A Final, featuring third-seeded Unionville taking on #4 Springfield (Delco), and the capacity crowd was treated to a classic showdown. After a scoreless first period, the teams traded goals during the second stanza (Ryan Brawley for Springfield, Conor Donze for Unionville).
Zach Emerson’s goal with 10:40 to go gave Unionville the lead, but the talented freshman Brawley answered with his second of the game only 2:13 later. The stage was set for another dramatic overtime.
With the first overtime period barely three minutes old, Unionville’s Mike Ledyard buried what appeared to be the game winner, and his teammates started pouring onto the ice in celebration. The goal was quickly waved off by the officials, as the puck had been played with a high stick.
Unionville had the majority of the scoring chances in overtime, but it was Springfield’s Billy McGugan that capitalized on his opportunity, scoring off a turnover 6:36 into the extra session. McGugan earned the Flyers Cup MVP award (as presented by former Flyer Don Saleski), and finished as the tournament’s top scorer with 8 points (4 g, 4 a) in 4 games, but it was the final goal and ensuing celebration that he and his teammates will cherish forever. Girls Final: Unionville 2, Downingtown East 0
Moments after the Unionville boys had their season end in heartbreak, the Unionville girls team took to the same ice bidding for their second consecutive Flyers Cup title. Their opponent was a much improved Downingtown East squad, whom the Indians disposed of easily in last year’s Girls Final (8-1).
The task was exponentially tougher for Unionville in 2011, as the Indians and Cougars battled through two scoreless periods. Goaltenders Miranda Stueve (Downingtown East) and Katharine Rogers (Unionville) were sensational, doing everything in their power to keep the game scoreless.
Finally, with 10:02 remaining in the game, Molly Topp (the only 12th grader on Unionville’s roster) scored on the rebound of a shot by tournament MVP Annabeth Donovan. Rogers continued to shut the door in the closing minutes, and Lillian Henjes added an empty net goal for Unionville as time expired. Next up: The Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championships
On Saturday, March 26, the Flyers Cup Champions from Class A, AA, and AAA will meet the winners of Western Pennsylvania’s Penguins Cup in the State Championship games. All games will be played at Ice Line in West Chester, and a $10 ticket gets you into all three games. Here is a look at the matchups:
11:00 am – A Final – Springfield (Delco) vs. Mars
1:30 pm – AA Final – Council Rock South vs. Bishop Canevin
4:00 pm – AAA Final – La Salle vs. Upper Saint Clair