Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Moyer, Pennridge headed to Flyers Cup

By Steven Lienert

COLMAR (The Phanatic Magazine) – Ask North Penn ice hockey coach Ken Haas about Pennridge forward A.J. Moyer and he will start gushing about what a tremendous person Moyer is.

And that was after Moyer tallied a hat trick to knock the Knights out of the Flyers Cup tournament.

Harrison Welch and Tim Chubb also notched a goal apiece and goalkeeper Steve Conolly stopped 34 shots for the Rams, who defeated North Penn, 5-1, at Hatfield Ice on Wednesday to advance to the Class AA championship game.

Pennridge, which entered the tournament as the sixth-seed, will face fifth-seeded Conestoga for the title at the Spectrum on Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m.

“I don’t think there is as fine a gentleman in the league than A. J. Moyer,” Haas said. “How can you not speak highly of A.J.? He’s the nicest kid in the league and best hockey player in the league, period.”

Moyer’s skill indirectly led to Pennridge’s first goal. Moyer gathered a loose puck on the right wing and beat a North Penn defender along the half-wall to create a 3-on-1 break for the Rams. Moyer took a shot from the right circle that was saved by North Penn goalie Steve Paris, but the rebound sat on the doorstep for Chubb, who poked the puck past Paris left pad for the 1-0 first-period lead.

“One of our defenders pinched, and you can’t pinch against A.J.,” Haas said. “He’ll toast you every time.”

So will Welch, who burned North Penn late in the opening frame to give the Rams a two-goal margin. Welch got open ice along the right half-wall and skated in against three North Penn defenders. After deking one player, Welch fired a wrister along the ice from the right circle that beat Paris for a 2-0 lead.

Meanwhile, the Knights were having trouble figuring out Pennridge’s neutral zone trap. North Penn outshot Pennridge 35-19 in the contest, but only managed one goal.

“It’s the neutral zone for a reason,” Pennridge coach Frank Reago said. “If you own that real estate, you own the game.”

The Knights finally got one past Conolly three minutes into the second period. North Penn center Rob McDyre threw a shot on goal from the left point that ricocheted off Pennridge defenseman Cody Lighthart’s shin and past Conolly to make it 2-1. It was the only time Conolly surrendered a goal.

“My practice before the game made me feel confident,” Conolly said. “I tried not to think about the game too much. It helps keep the nerves down.”

Less than four minutes later, Moyer beat Paris short side with a wrist shot from below the left circle to re-establish a two-goal margin entering the third period.

North Penn defenseman Anthony Ricci had a golden opportunity to pull the Knights within one after he gathered a loose puck behind Conolly and went in unobstructed for a stuffer, but Conolly closed the five-hole and kept the Knights at bay.

“Before the season, people were coming up to me and saying we weren’t going to win because we don’t have a goalie,” Reago said. “I told (Conolly) ‘I won’t pull you if you have a bad game. I won’t put in another goalie.’ He’s come through for me.”

Moyer took care of the rest, as his two third-period goals sealed the Rams’ date with Conestoga. With just under 12 minutes remaining, Moyer gathered a loose puck at his own blue line, skated around a defender and shielded him off with his body before lifting a shot over Paris for a 4-1 margin.

Just over four minutes later, Paris gave up a rebound on a slap shot and Moyer kept whacking away at it until it squirted into the net for the game’s final tally.

“I didn’t expect this,” Moyer said. “The trap was played textbook. We didn’t get a lot of shots, but they went in."

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