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Ice hockey: Rams maximized potential in 2019


This season, Pennridge finally climbed over a mountain that had stymied the Rams in campaigns past.

Posting a record of 16-3-3, Pennridge captured a Suburban High School Hockey League (SHSHL) Class 2A championship, thanks to a 2-0 shutout win over Continental Conference rival Central Bucks South March 1 at Hatfield Ice. The Titans crushed the Rams in last year’s league final.

“They extracted every ounce of what we should have accomplished this year,” said Pennridge head coach Jeff Montagna. “You really couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

“To have the team maximize its potential was pretty cool.”

Senior Matt Guinette tallied in the first period on a power play on an assist from classmate Eric Slater and Michael Eissler padded the lead in the second period with an even-strength goal off a feed from Jeff Manto.

Senior goalkeeper Luke Stranick made the goals count, stopping all 40 shots launched by the Titans. “Luke was phenomenal,” said Montagna. “You don’t see too many 40-save shutouts.”

For CB South, who toppled Pennridge 8-3 in the league finals last year, it was the first SHSHL playoff loss for the Titans after 16 consecutive postseason victories.

For the Rams, it was their first league title in 11 seasons, the last one coming in 2008.

In Flyers Cup play, Pennridge toppled Garnet Valley and North Penn before falling 3-2 to three-time and eventual 2019 champion Downingtown East.

Trailing Downingtown 1-0, Blake Stewart drew his team even in the second stanza, scoring off assists from Slater and Michael Walker.

Trailing 3-1 in the third period, Slater tallied with five minutes left in regulation and Cougars keeper Matt Shandler had to withstand a barrage of Rams’ shots to send his team to the finals.

With 30 seconds left, Guinette hit the post and Pennridge peppered the Downingtown goal with a number of point-blank shots in the final minute.

“They picked a great time to play their best game of the year,” said Montagna. “A lot of teams are intimidated by Downingtown East. They came within a post shot by Matt Guinette of taking it to overtime.”

“We dominated the game in the last two minutes; the puck was in their end the entire time.”

“One little bounce and things could have turned out differently.

“It was a tough pill to swallow.”

As always, Stranick was remarkable, turning away 31 of 34 shots he faced in net for the Rams, who say goodbye to a dozen seniors.

“They were upset it was over but they also knew how well they played,” said Montagna.

“It was a tough way to lose but when you play as hard as they did, there wasn’t a lot for them to be upset about, other than the fact that it was their last high school game.

In addition to Stranick, Walker, Guinette and Slater, who led the team in scoring with 30 goals and 20 assists, Pennridge waves goodbye to defensemen Frankie Rota, Bryson Egan, Hayden Maltby and C.J. Deiley.

Forwards Nick Eissler, Tommy Pichardo and Evan Kehoe are also graduating from the program.

Next season, the Rams will look to freshman goalkeeper Ryan Pico to take up the space between the pipes. Pico played three games in goal this season while starting one.

A sophomore this year, Stewart will be the only player back from Pennridge’s most dangerous scoring line that included Slater and Walker, who netted 16 goals and 16 assists this season.

“To beat us, you had to shut that line down and that was a lot easier said than done,” said Montagna. “No team really figured out how to do that.”

While Manto, Mike Eissler and Michael White will return to the offense next winter, the Rams have just one player – Conrad Frisch – returning with any experience on defense.