David Gulati stole a page — a trick moreso — from Gordie Howe Monday night.
The Spring-Ford senior's performance against Pottsgrove harkened to the Detroit Red Wings legend and his 'Gordie Howe Hat Trick', a variation on the hat trick where a player scores a goal, records an assist and gets in a fight.
With the first two categories covered, Gulati wasn't interested in being a fighter. But he certainly is a thrower.
After tying the game with a stunning one-man counterattack goal spanning three-quarters of the field in the first half, Gulati went ahead and assisted the Rams' next two goals, the first from a long throw-in to teammate Jerry Williams, the second by a lofted through ball to Nick Bombard as Spring-Ford surged past Pottsgrove, 3-1, at Coach McNelly Stadium.
Germann Larmond opened the game's scoring for Pottsgrove (3-1 PAC-10, 4-2 overall).
"David energizes the team,' Spring-Ford coach Doug Landis said. "He has tremendous spirit and he can energize us and get us back into a game. You saw what he did. That was our first goal. We were down by a goal and from there didn't look back.'
Soccer may be Gulati's other sport — he has committed to play baseball at Villanova — but it sure didn't look that way against the Falcons. He provided the much-needed spark for the Rams (4-0 PAC-10, 5-1 overall) to continue their unbeaten start to the Pioneer Athletic Conference season.
After being clobbered 3-0 by Coatesville in their opener, Spring-Ford hasn't lost since.
"Right now we're looking at it as one game at a time,' Landis said. "I think we got ahead of ourselves and the start of the season and took a bad loss. We looked at ourselves as a team and stepped back and decided to take it a game at a time and focus on the team. Our focus is to play better every single game and they have and we're still winning.'
That winning trend appeared to be in doubt if the first 15 minutes was the sample size.
The Falcons came out on fire, coming unbelievably close to taking a lead on Rammy Abbas' header from a corner kick that was headed off the goal line by Spring-Ford defender Luke Emerson or on a couple of chances by forward Ethan Abdalla. Minutes later, on another corner kick, Pottsgrove was rewarded. Travers Mutton's corner wasn't cleared to safety and fell to Larmond, who crushed a left-footed shot through a crowd to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.
The Rams barely knew what hit them.
"That first 20-25 minutes we were on our heels,' Landis said. "(Pottsgrove coach) Jay (Witkowski) did a fantastic job. They were fast, moving the ball, and we weren't prepared for it.'
Pottsgrove's high-pressure defense aggravated Spring-Ford early, but as the first half progressed, the Rams' intensity elevated.
Still, it took Gulati's game-changing speed to get the match to turn on its head.
The Rams cleared a Falcons attack to Gulati in space in their own half. Instead of waiting for the calvary to arrive, Gulati thumped a pass through the Falcons back line — basically to himself — and with a burst of speed ran past the defenders at midfield and created a breakaway for himself, which he cooly finished to tie the game 1-1 with 7:45 before halftime.
"I trust my speed. I trusted that I could beat the back line,' Gulati said. "Once I got inside the 20 my mind went blank, just shoot, score, nothing fancy. I think going down one goal in the beginning amped us up. We came out flat. I didn't want to lose to Pottsgrove, even though they are a very good team.'
The Rams' collective intensity only rose even further early in the second half.
Within five minutes Spring-Ford was in front. Gulati hurled a throw-in from near the corner flag to the middle of the penalty area, which Williams headed. Pottsgrove goalkeeper Teddy Calabretta was able to parry the header but Williams booted in the follow for the 2-1 lead. Williams was especially influential all game in connecting the Spring-Ford defense — Kole Lyons, Zach Collier, Emerson and Cole Pajovich — with the forwards.
"The throw-in near the box is the same as a corner kick. We've had a couple goals off of it this year. It's working out really well for us,' Gulati said.
That scoreline lasted only five more minutes until Gulati played a lofted pass over the Falcons defense to Bombard, who went wide onto his favored left foot and skidded his shot into the net to give Spring-Ford an increasingly comfortable 3-1 lead.
Gulati certainly made the most of his playing time for a Spring-Ford team that rotates four or more forwards.
"We're a team. We pick each other up,' he said. "I don't look at it like I have to do well for myself, I view it as doing well for the team. It's not about who is leading goals, assists, it's about winning. The depth in our forwards and midfield really helps us out.'
Depth is a luxury the Falcons most certainly don't have. They featured just one substitute Monday.
Nevertheless, Pottsgrove went through their Frontier Division games unbeaten and coach Witkowski was pleased with what he saw in his team's first game with a Liberty Division rival.
"It was the first test as far as speed of play, physicality, overall speed that we've had,' Witkowski said. "We have to get used to playing games like that. I told them, ' There weren't any championships being won today. But that is what we're going to see come playoff time, teams like that.''
For Spring-Ford, its standout forward certainly can't complain about the team's start in the PAC-10.
"Undefeated so far (in the PAC-10),' Gulati said. "It feels good. It's nothing less than we expected, but it definitely feels good.'
Spring-Ford goalkeeper Pat Swartz made six saves. Counterpart Calabretta had three saves. ... Spring-Ford had a 7-6 advantage in shots on goal.