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Pennridge captures Flyers Cup, state title


Pennridge is this year’s Flyers Cup 2A and state champion.


It’s the second time in three years the Rams have captured perhaps the Delaware Valley’s most coveted prize in scholastic ice hockey. Just like 2022, Pennridge added a state title, to boot.

It was the way that Pennridge defeated Council Rock South in the Flyers Cup final – also for the second time in three years – that may have been the most unforeseen of events in this postseason.

Remember, the Golden Hawks toppled the Rams 7-2 in the Suburban High School Hockey League championship after the sides were deadlocked at 2-2 in the second period of that battle. Similarly, the same foes were drawn even at 2-2 in the second period of this skirmish.

The similarities between the title tilts end there, however.

Less than four minutes after CR South tied the game on a goal by Gavin Nisenzon (from Ilya Kudzinau) 23 seconds into the middle frame, junior Shane Dachowski tallied a power-play strike two seconds into the Golden Hawks’ penalty to put Pennridge back on top, 3-2.

Then Dachowski teamed up with senior Kevin Pico, who notched the winning goal on a wrist shot from the middle of the left circle with less than four minutes left in the second period, chasing Golden Hawks starting goaltender Trevor Rakszawski.

The Rams never looked back, notching three goals in the third period facing CR South backup goalie Trey Prozzillo in a 7-3 triumph.

“It’s so important for us to play with a lead against them,” explained Pennridge head coach Jeff Montagna. “The last time (in the SHSHL final) when they got up on us by a couple, they took away the neutral zone.

“Tonight when we got the lead, we knew that everything was going to open up. We knew we were going to get chances and we were going to take them.”

Like the SHSHL championship, the Rams were outshot by the Golden Hawks by a lopsided margin.

Montagna says there was a plan in place. The coach says that scheme was based around the familiarity between foes, who had faced each other three times before in the current campaign.

“When you see a team as many times as we’ve seen them this season and for (the past) three years, you really get to know each other so we had a game plan going in,” explained Montagna.

“The shots were real lopsided but there was a method to what we were doing. We were giving up certain shots (in order) to prevent other shots.”

Of course, it helps to have a lockdown goalkeeper like Pennridge junior Jacob Winton – who stopped 49 of 52 shots, earning himself the Flyers Cup Tournament MVP award – suiting up for the Green and White.

In the first period when his team was outshot 18-5, Winton allowed a single strike by CR South forward Chase Tovsky, who converted a feed from Blaize Pepe into a goal that knotted the score at 1-all.

“I think he really battled from the start,” said Pico, “then just kept on going the whole game.”

“Him having our backs allowed us to go get chances at the other end and gave us momentum after making some big saves.”

The Rams struck first when Dachowski tallied on a late breakaway then went ahead 2-1 when Pico tipped in a backhanded shot launched by Tyler Manto from about 10 feet in front of the net.

After going ahead 4-2 on Pico’s second goal of the game, Pennridge piled on with three more goals in the final frame. Senior Colin Dachowski (Ryan Mikulich) scored 3:35 into the period on a slap shot from 20 feet out, younger brother Shane notched his third goal of the finale midway through after a giveaway in front of the Golden Hawks’ net and finally, senior Andrew Savona tallied with 2:30 left on a slow-moving shot that seemingly handcuffed the CR South netminder.

The goal by Golden Hawks forward Illia Mukhin (Nikita Volobuiev/Kevin Koles) with 8:20 left in regulation that drew CR South within a pair almost seemed inconsequential. Maybe it was the fact that the Rams increased their lead back to three less than a minute later when Shane Dachowski (Pico/Nick Young) recorded his hat trick.

For the game, Pennridge’s top line accounted for 10 points as Dachowski added an assist to his total, Pico notched a pair of goals and a helper while Savona recorded a goal and two assists.

“They are without a doubt the greatest line I have literally ever seen – Tier I, Tier II – the things they do on the ice,” stated Montagna. “I think they had all seven (goals) tonight. Everyone (on the other team) knows who to stop and it doesn’t matter.

“Every time that team (South) punched us tonight, they responded back.”

Pico kept the Rams on an even footing throughout the first two periods when they were outshot, 33-13.

“He is what makes this team go and it almost looks effortless for him at times,” stated Montagna.

“He’s so good at creating offense but he’s also really, really good, defensively. He’s really good at slowing plays down. That’s his personality and that’s the way he plays.”

On Saturday at Havertown Township Skatium, Pico led his team with a goal and three assists in a 7-5 comeback win over Penguins Cup Champion Thomas Jefferson.

Trailing 2-1 after one period, Shane Dachowski’s power-play goal tied the game at 2-all and another power-play goal by James Rush put Pennridge on top 5-4 heading into the final frame. Rush scored again 4:09 into the last stanza and Dachowski added some insurance about halfway through.

The Rams last won the state title two years ago, defeating the same opponent 4-3 in double overtime.

Despite their youth in 2022, some on the current squad contributed immensely to that postseason run when Pennridge captured both the Flyers Cup and the state title.

Pico notched two goals in the 2022 Flyers Cup championship and took the Bobby Clarke award as the Tournament MVP. Just a freshman at the time, Shane Dachowski netted the leading scorer award in the Flyers Cup championship. And brother Colin notched a goal and an assist in the Flyers Cup final.

In states, Pico scored the winning goal in double OT, tapping in a shot launched by Manto, who centered the line at that time. Manto notched the tying goal with less than six minutes remaining in regulation while Savona opened the scoring for the Rams in the first period.

“They are the best players I’ve ever seen – period. They’re big-game players,” stated Montagna.

“They understand the moment and it’s never too big for them and they lead this team that way.”

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