By BRYAN DAVIS
Special to Tri County
WEST GOSHEN - Bishop Shanahan ice hockey coach Steve Stefanski was looking for his team to come out fast against Malvern Prep, a squad that had previously defeated the Eagles twice this season.
Instead, the Friars held the territorial edge, scoring twice in the first period on their way to posting a 5-1 victory in the Inter-County Scholastic League AAA playoffs last Tuesday at Ice Line.
"I told my coaches that we looked ready," said Stefanski, a former Shanahan player now in his first year behind the Eagles' bench. "And then we come out and it was like we were skating in mud. There was no life, no jump, no intensity - and you can't play like that against Malvern."
Malven Prep (20-8-3) cashed in its first big opportunity nearly four minutes into the contest.
Mike Restuccia made the initial save on Mac Dunton, but junior Kevin Huntington flipped the puck over the prone Shanahan goalie for his 14th goal of the season.
After the tally, Malvern took over, holding the Eagles without a shot for more than five minutes.
"We put together a strong game defensively and offensively," said Malvern coach Bill Weil. "All our players took great care to play well in the defensive zone."
The Friars showed their speed with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the first period. After a Shanahan foray, Dan Lassik hit Huntington with a perfect breakout pass. Huntington cruised in on a breakaway, had his first shot stopped by Restuccia, but calmly knocked in the rebound for a two-goal advantage.
"It was a scrum in the center of the goal and the puck popped out," Huntington said of his 15th goal of the campaign. "My linemate did a great job in getting me the puck and I just stuck with it and knocked it in."
Malvern stretched the lead to 3-0 nearly 10 minutes into the second on the prettiest goal of the evening.
Huntington broke in, but had his angle cut off by a Shanahan defenseman. Slowing down, Huntington was almost behind the net before he floated a perfect backhand pass to Eric Wygant, who knocked it in.
Defenseman Steve Frey scored from the point on the power play to give the Friars a 4-0 lead after two.
Malvern freshman Shane Lewis (16 saves) had his bid for a shutout spoiled when sophomore Chris Gosik scored a power-play goal midway through the stanza.
Until then, Gosik and Billy Connelly, the two leading scorers for Shanahan, were held in check, registering just five shots between them.
Senior Greg Antell recorded his team-leading 18th goal to close out the scoring.
The Friars move into the double-elimination AAA final on Friday. The Eagles (9-9-3) can face them again by beating Archbishop Carroll today - a fact that Stefanski will use as a powerful motivational tool.
"Tomorrow night Carroll will try to stop us from seeing Malvern one more time," Stefanski said. "That is what I told them in the locker room. That is our goal, to play Malvern one more time."
Unlike previous editions, this year's Malvern team is enjoying the unusual role of underdog.
"Some people didn't expect us to come this far," said Huntington. "They think we're in a down year, but we had some guys step up. We're playing as a team and we're not going to stop working until we get where we want to be - playing in the Flyers Cup."
Malvern Prep 5
Bishop Shanahan 1
Shanahan 0 0 1 -1
Malvern 2 2 1 -5
Bishop Shanahan goal:
Malvern Prep goals:
Huntington 2, Wygant,
Restuccia (BS) 24;
Lewis (MP) 16.