Knights slay Falcons in first round of SHSHL playoff hockey

Knight%27s+defense+man%2C+Luke+Van+Why%2C+scores+top+shelf+for+NP.+One+of+25+shots+put+on+net+by+North+Penn%27s+offense

Brandi Marlin

Knight’s defense man, Luke Van Why, scores top shelf for NP. One of 25 shots put on net by North Penn’s offense

HATFIELD-The pre-game speech delivered by each team’s head coaches to Monday night’s playoff hockey spectacle seemed to revolve around the objectives of skating aggressive and skating fast. 4 goals in the first 8 shots combined by both ice hockey squads, made this first round playoff square off an offenses dream, and a defense’s nightmare.

The North Penn Knights (13-3-0 ) skated over the Pennsbury Falcons (10-5-1) 7-4 Monday night at Hatfield Ice Arena in a SHSHL AA quarterfinals game where the winner gets to lace up the skates one more time and the loser’s season came to an end.

The Flyers Cup Tournament may be the grandest time of year to play hockey as talented teams around the Eastern PA, South New Jersey, and Delaware areas battle on the ice in a tournament bracket starting up on March 2nd. Currently however, the Knights and Falcons have some local area playoff hockey to take care off. And when the first few shots of the night were thrown on the net, those shots found twine as well.

“We knew [the Falcons] were gonna come out flying so our game plan was trying to match their intensity from the get go. That was important, and was a really good thing going forward after that as they tied it up right away, we were able to take the lead back immediately,” stated Knight’s captain Tyler Greenstein.

Each team traded their first share of goals only five minutes into the playoff match courtesy of North Penn’s, Ryan Kaufhold, who found the back of the net following sophomore, Tony Tuozzo’s, face off win back to the fellow Knights underclassmen to break the night’s scoreboard. This early lead in favor of the boys in white and blue didn’t last for long however as just 12 seconds later, Pennsbury’s, Jake Machlovitz, had a response of his own. An offensive zone face off win by Reece Millman fed the Falcons forward a shot opportunity from the blue line, and his shot, which skipped not one, but two different directions following the launch off the stick of Machlovitz, rolled across the goal line, tying the game at 1 at the 15:20 mark in the first. However, the offenses were just getting started. The Falcons took their first and only lead of the night in less than 2 minutes after Machlovitz tying goal thanks to a breakaway finish by Andrew Falkenstein, going through the 5-hole of Knights sophomore goalie, Nick Ebbinghaus, for the one goal lead. Out of the combined 23 shots put up by both squads, the final two which prevailed in lighting the lamp came off of the sticks of North Penn skaters, both of which being underclassmen for the Knights. 

“[Team chemistry] is obviously always good when everyone on the team can contribute to our success and the underclassmen are a huge part of our success. We just always try and work the puck around and get everyone involved,” said Knights assistant captain, Josh Kaufhold.

A 3-2 score and the lead back in favor of the Knights,  juniors Luke Van Why and Zach Cline contributed to North Penn’s late first period scoring as Cline’s goal not only hoisted the Knights back over the Falcons on the scoreboard, but tallied up Tuozzo’s already second assist on the game.

“I was playing on a good line with my teammates and they out the puck in when i passed it to them. We put a good combination of guys out there so we can move the puck make those assists happen. We are continuing to see who works well together so we can build that up and make [the combinations] work well together against bigger teams,” stated Tuozzo.

Following a first period where they allowed two goals and 11 total shots on net, the Knights had to respond on the defensive end of the ice, and once the puck dropped to commence the second period, the boys of North Penn hunkered down every inch of their end of the ice.

“We have to continue locking up the crease. Tighter defense is a focus going forward especially [Council] Rock South on Wednesday and we have to stop chances around the crease,” said Greenstein.

Only three shots allowed on their own net minder, North Penn played a rather methodical second period of play as well with the Falcons regarding shot total, however the story could not be the same when it came to the scoreboard. A 4th and 5th goal on the night for the Knights offense hoisted North Penn up to a 5-2 lead. A Josh Kaufhold wrist shot at 4:16 left of play in the 2nd to tally up the seniors first of two goals on the night quickly reinforced a goal built off of an up ice developing play between Ryan Kaufhold and Luke Van Why which found Greenstein with some space and time in open ice, and as the captain does best, he capitalizes on the chances he’s given, and does so by burying a wrist shot, this one bouncing in off the save attempt by Falcon’s goalkeeper, Topher Seiler, who stopped 22 of 25 shots sent at him in the square off.

“We were just trying to get the puck on net any way we could tonight and we knew if we generated those chances off the play of their goalie, we could get on an up and coming team like Pennsbury,” expressed Greenstein.

The first ten minutes of the third pertained to the most clean defensive playing of the night for both teams as scoreless hockey for over the first half of the final period of play meant many open ice hits and scrums for the puck at center ice. When it was a point where either team found themselves with an opportunity to send a bullet of net, an opposing player stepped up with their body to disrupt the scoring chance. Highlighting this effort of both ends of the ice were Pennsbury’s, Connor Coyne, who stuck to his defense man’s title to intercept a cross crease feed attempt between North Penn’s captain Greenstein and J. Kaufhold on a 2-0n-1 break into Falcon’s territory while on the other end of the ice, a Knights defense man showed off some armor and grit. Standing tall, junior Chase Mueller, for the Knights blocked a slap shot from the blue line to deny the impending shot on Ebbinghaus in net.

“Nick [Ebbinghaus] played well all night and has played well for us all season. We just gotta focus a bit more on supporting him in our own zone, but overall, we played well and better as the game went on,” stated coach Vaitis.

At the 8:27 mark in the third period however, the flood gates opened up and the goal lamps were lit again on either side of the ice and both teams ended the game on how they started, each trading two goals a piece. Pennsbury’s two goals off the sticks of forwards, Shane Siegmund, and, Erik Eisler, sparked a bit of momentum and hope for a late game comeback for the birds of black and orange. However, the last hope of SHSHL playoff bracket hockey was salvaged away following goals from Knights assistant captains Josh Kaufhold and Tommy Boyle. A tic-tac-toe set up with Boyle and Greenstein delivered over to Kaufhold for the one timer, top shelf, past the glove of Sieler in net for the Falcons. And an empty netter from the far blue line which skipped it’s way across the goal line to send the Knight’s into the semi-final round of the SHSHL playoff bracket, and put the nail into the coffin to Pennsbury’s short playoff run.

“We got out of here with a 7-4 win, not the prettiest, but we gotta come ready to play when [Council] Rock South comes in. We are really trying to carry this [win] forward now to Wednesday night. I think we played a little bit better as the game went on and we gotta look to continue to push forward and get better. Wednesday is gonna be a good game and it’s gonna come here quick,” concluded coach Vaitis.

North Penn is back on the ice this week in the second round of the SHSHL playoff bracket to face off with Council Rock South at Hatfield Ice Arena Wednesday night, the 26th. Puck drops at 8:30 between the Knights and Golden Hawks with a ticket to the SHSHL AA playoff championship game Thursday, the 27th, on the line.

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