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Pennridge cements top seed in the postseason


Pennridge had a mission going into the last duel of the season and the Rams played the Valentine’s Day matchup with Central Bucks South accordingly.

Tied in points with Council Rock South, Pennridge knew it needed a win to secure the top seed in the upcoming Suburban High School Hockey League (SHSHL) Tournament.

“This game meant a lot – a whole lot – to us,” admitted Rams head coach Jeff Montagna.

“This was for the first seed (and) the last game of the season so we wanted to end strong, get that one seed for playoffs and get home ice (advantage),” added Pennridge senior center Kevin Pico.

Leading by the slimmest of margins, the Rams pumped three consecutive shorthanded goals into the net and another at even strength to take a commanding 5-0 lead going into the final frame.

“That is something that we talk about all the time – creating offense off of the penalty kill,” explained Montagna. “The penalty kill that we use is a real aggressive kill designed to create offense.”

“We know when we play aggressive on a penalty kill, it’s going to make them scared and mess around with the puck,” added Pico.

“We just capitalized on it.”

Less than two minutes into the second period with a skater in the penalty box for tripping, Pennridge forward Andrew Savona took a feed from Pico and put it past CB South goalkeeper Nate Napolitano for the game-winning goal.

“The first one (shorthanded goal) we scored – that’s the way we draw it up, the way it played out,” stated Montagna.

The Rams won the battle at Hatfield Ice Arena going away, 7-1, and will take on either No. 4 seed CB East or No. 5 North Penn in a second-round SHSHL pairing on Feb. 28.

Savona finished the game with four goals – including a pair that were tallied with his team shorthanded – and an assist. The team’s leading scorer, Savona finishes the regular season with 40 goals and 31 assists.

For his part, Pico finished the regular season with the most points – 75 – in the SHSHL National Division after registering 28 goals and 47 assists including four helpers in this game.

“He’s (Savona) gotta bury them (in the net),” stated Pico. “If he doesn’t bury them, then it’s not an assist so you have to give him credit for scoring.”

Napolitano barely had time to get resituated in the net when Pennridge struck again. Less than a minute after Savona’s first goal, Rams forward James Rush tallied unassisted, again with his team playing shorthanded.

Savona tallied another shorthanded goal again off a feed from Pico with 3:52 remaining in the period. Savona would strike again, taking a feed from Nick Young and putting the puck in the back of the net in the final minute of the middle frame.

Defensively, Pennridge surrendered a meaningless third-period goal scored by Titans forward Ryan Montagna. Rams goalkeeper Jake Winton turned away 30 of 31 shots in the contest for his 15th win of the season.

“I feel confident with him (Winton) in the net every game, no matter who we’re playing,” stated Pico. “I think he’s always going to have a good game.”

Winners in their previous two battles against CB East and CB West, CB South finishes the season in third place with a 12-5-1 record in the SHSHL National Division.

Granted four power-play opportunities in the second period facing Pennridge on Feb. 14, the Titans failed to muster a single goal on the man advantage.

“Three shorthanded goals on four power play opportunities – special teams, this time of the year, is either gonna kill you or make you fly,” stated CB South head coach Shaun McGinty.

“Our shot total was good but we got out-worked, we got outplayed.”

Still, the Titans were outshot 37-31 in the contest including a 16-9 advantage in the first period.

“In my eyes, we lost 3-0 because we lost three straight periods,” added McGinty. “The score is what the score is but if you lose three periods in a row, you’re not going to win the hockey game.”

CB South went shot for shot with Pennridge in the opening minutes of the duel before the Rams went to work and fired five straight rockets at Napolitano, finally resulting in a goal by Shane Dachowski, who also tallied a strike in the final frame.

All told, the Dachowski/Pico/Savona line accounted for six of the seven tallies by Pennridge. The trio occupies three of the four top spots on the SHSHL National offensive stat sheet.

Savona was the second leading scorer in the league with 40 goals and 31 assists while Dachowski ranked fourth on the points list (behind Souderton’s Max Ryon) with 27 goals and 33 helpers.

“You can watch this sport for a long time and you’re not going to see a better high school hockey line than those three,” stated Montagna. “How easy they make it look, it’s special to watch.”

“I’ve been watching for four years now and I get caught watching sometimes,” the coach added. “Some of the goals they score, they’re that good – the way they move the puck and the way they space, it’s really difficult to stop.”

The last time the Titans took on the Rams, CB South held a 5-1 scoring advantage in the third period only to see Pennridge put four goals in the net in the last 10 minutes of regulation before winning the battle in overtime on a goal by Rush.

Now, the Titans will take on sixth-seeded Souderton in a first-round SHSHL pairing Feb. 21 back at Hatfield Ice. The last time CB South battled Soudy, the Indians won the January duel in overtime.

Last year, CB South lost to Neshaminy in an SHSHL opener while Pennridge lost to Pennsbury in the league semifinal. The Falcons also defeated the Rams in the Flyers Cup finale.

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