HAVERFORD — When Haverford last met Garnet Valley, it gave the Jaguars their only blemish of the Central League hockey season, a 4-4 tie back in November. On Friday night at the Skatium, the Fords did one better. Five Haverford players found the back of the net in a 5-1 drubbing of the Jags.
The result couldn't have come at a better time for the Fords. Haverford (13-4-1 overall, 11-4-1 Central) saw a seven-game winning streak come to an end Wednesday against Lower Merion. Against the Central's top cats on Friday, the Fords were nearly flawless. "We had a tough game on Wednesday — a tough loss,' said Haverford coach Joe Povey, whose team celebrated senior night prior to puck drop. "For us to work extremely hard tonight, it's a good momentum builder. This time of year it's not so much about results. It's mostly about playing well.'
Senior captain Stephen McCrossin opened the scoring in the first when his snap shot squeaked through Jags goaltender Greg Schenk. Michael Gibson scored just 11 seconds later, and Michael McShane added a third in a first period that saw the Fords outshoot Garnet Valley, 11-2. "It's kind of revenge for us,' said McCrossin, who was his normal dominant self on defense as well. "Last year they killed us on our senior night. It's also a good bounce back after the loss to Lower Merion.'
Garnet Valley looked to mount a comeback early in the second when Nico Gricco's wrist shot found the top corner of Joey Harant's cage. But it was the only puck Harant surrendered all night. He made several key saves in the period to preserve the Fords' lead, including back-to-back pad stops on Michael Lassik one-time attempts. "He's been our backbone all year,' said McCrossin of his goalie. "He's always there for us. Joey's one of the best goalies in the league.'
Nine minutes into the second, Haverford's Moran brothers provided the dagger. Facing a Garnet Valley power play, Shane Moran intercepted a Jaguars pass at the top of his defensive zone. Joe, his older brother and penalty kill partner, took off. "My brother gave me a great pass,' explained Joe. "I went in on the breakaway and went five hole.'
The Jaguars faced an uphill battle down 4-1. Not only did they have to deal with the strong defensive play of the Fords, but also a buildup of snow that on any other winter might be considered serious accumulation. By the mid-third period the surface was all but unplayable. Senior Alex Kineavy's second goal of the season closed the scoring with just more than a minute to play.
How much does this loss hurt Garnet Valley? Hardly at all if you ask coach Bryan Ely. "We've got some injuries. The flu bug is running through our team,' said Ely. "We're playing with a skeleton crew for sure.'
Indeed the Jaguars were missing several key players, including leading scorer Joe Dangelantonio and point-per-game producer Gannon Stuart.
No team likes to lose, especially one which spent the majority of the season undefeated. But with the playoffs right around the corner, Ely's group can throw this week's losses — which included Monday's 5-1 defeat to West Chester Rustin — out."It couldn't come at a better time,' Ely said. "It gives the guys a chance to refocus. We can put these last two results behind us. The new season starts Monday.'
With Haverford's win that new season looks suddenly compelling. Garnet Valley rolled through everyone else in the Central League, but the Fords proved Friday night that this may be a multi-team title chase. "The seedings aren't going to matter very much,' said Povey. "There's so much parity in the top six teams. Whoever is playing best is going to win.'