Rams Knock Down Knights in Semi-Finals


Brandi Marlin

Junior Tyler Greenstein takes a shot on net as Pennridge attempts to poke-check the puck away

HATFIELD- Despite going 2-3 on power plays, tallying up 30+ shots on net, and Jared Albano’s hat trick, Pennridge’s goaltending and constant offensive push proved too dominant for the Knights ice hockey squad down the stretch in the SHSHL semi-final game.

The second seeded Pennridge Rams (15-2-3) hosted and defeated the third seeded North Penn Knights (12-5-3), by a score of 6-4 in a Wednesday night do, or die postseason matchup where the winner punched their ticket to the league’s championship. In the early stages of the game, both teams kept the scoreboard quiet as the Rams and Knights played their share of sound defense and puck control on their own end of the ice. Junior, Thomas Boyle, for North Penn, highlighted these efforts through a sliding block to exhaust a scoring chance for Pennridge forward, Eric Slater, along with a chase down poke check to take away a break away opportunity for Ram’s forward, Michael Eissler.

Brandi Marlin
There is a scramble in front of the net to try and get the puck

“The guys continued to work the entire game tonight. They have a number of players that are very talented upfront and we did a decent job containing most of them. I think we just have to focus on playing a little tighter defensively so if we end up getting a matchup with these guys down the road, we gotta look at cutting down the number of chances that they get,” stated Knights’ head coach, Kevin Vaitis.

At the 11-minute mark in the first period, the Rams found themselves skating with an early lead of 2-0, courtesy of Tommy Pichardo’s wrister that bounced off of Knights’ goaltender, Nick Ebbinghaus’s glove, and a chip shot off the stick of Blake Stewart that got past Ebbinghaus and trickle into the back of the net. However, when it may have been an opportunity for the Rams to pull ahead and take a commanding lead in only the first period, it was seniors Jared Albano and Nate Oh, who stepped up for the Knights and drew back the 2-0 deficit.

“We just know we gotta work as hard as we can every shift, with not many games left. We earned a lot of those hard nosed goals tonight and know that the urgency has to be there and have at it,” explained Knight’s senior, Nate Oh.

Two goals from Albano within two minutes of each other tied the game up heading into the second period after Oh blew by his defenseman along the boards and dished the puck to Albano on a cut to the net as the Knights found themselves on the scoreboard for the first time of the game.  Following that, a slap shot from the blue line was knocked down by Pennridge defenseman, Mathew Guinette, however Albano found himself in the right position to pick up the loose puck and knock home his second of the night while on a North Penn power play.

“[Albano and Oh] are playing their best hockey I have seen them play in four years. They go out there and give it a 120% every game, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach. I told them that we have four more games to go come Flyers Cup, and it’s gonna start on Wednesday night,” said Coach Vaitis.

The second period kicked off with Pennridge lighting the lamp off of a backhand deke move from forward, Aidan Boyle, that beat the low blocker side of Ebbinghaus in net, but North Penn would answer that with a Thomas Boyle tap in goal through traffic in front of Rams goaltender, Luke Stranik, leaving the score at 3-3. Pennridge forward, Eric Slater sent a chip shot over Ebbinghaus’s helmet and under the crossbar to send both teams into the second period intermission with a Rams one goal lead. Once again though, the senior presence on the Knights roster showed itself again, after an Oh backhand feed found Albano in front of the crease again, and led to a tying score along with giving a hat trick to the Knights captain.

“The hat trick felt great and I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They are always there finding and feeding me the puck. I tried to step up and play for my teammates and I know my linemates stepped up as well and that’s what we needed,” explained Albano.

Brandi Marlin
Tyler Greenstein pushes the puck forward to begin an offensive push

The 4-4 tie wouldn’t be up on the scoreboard for long however, as Pennridge capitalized on a power play opportunity and took back the lead thanks to a right handed wrist shot from forward, Michael Walker, which beat Ebbinghaus top shelf with 9:54 left to play in the third period. North Penn’s chances ultimately ran out as Rams’ goaltender, Luke Stranik, locked down his net while batting away rebound opportunities and showed off some pad saves on the final few shots for North Penn’s offense. In addition, the Pennridge defense held off the Knights with a lay out block from Frankie Rota and a poke check from Mathew Guinette to clear a rebound opportunity for a Knight in front of the net. An empty net goal from Walker tallied up his second goal of the night and sealed the semi-final victory for the Rams as they advance to the championship game Thursday night, the 28th.

“I said to these guys that have this taste in your mouth right now that none of us like, no one wants to lose in the playoffs and that we don’t want to experience this for the rest of the year. We have state playoffs, Flyer’s Cup, that starts next week and we are gonna get back to work at practice on Monday,” said coach Vaitis.

The Knight’s will be back at Hatfield Ice next week on Wednesday, the 6th , to kick off the Flyer’s Cup, state tournament and will face off against Pennsbury. Follow NP ICE HOCKEY on twitter for more game and tournament information.