As reigning Flyers Cup champion, La Salle knows that it has a big target on its back. That doesn't seem to bother the Explorers much, as they cruised to a first round win over Cardinal O'Hara on Thursday night.
La Salle opened its title defense with a 12-0 thrashing of the Lions at Hatfield Ice in a game that lasted just two periods. Led by Connor Lloyd's hat trick, the Explorers dominated on both ends of the ice, finding the back of the net with ease and thwarting the occasional O'Hara attack. It was a good start to the tournament.
"We have been a different, focused team the second half of the year,' La Salle coach Wally Muehlbronner said. "The guys are playing hard and having fun, it's great to see.'
It was clear early on that this game would be won handily by La Salle. Despite being at even strength, you would have thought the Explorers were on the power play for the better part of the first five minutes of the game. La Salle held the puck in O'Hara's end and created chances, eventually leading to Kevin Charyzszyn's goal that opened the floodgates.
The Explorers scored the majority of their goals in the first period with less than seven minutes remaining. First it was Andrew Romano in transition at 6:30 then Jeff Gratz smashed home a loose puck around a minute later. Lloyd then added a pair of power play goals within a minute and a half of each other to end the frame on a high note.
La Salle finished off O'Hara in the second period, though the Lions did not go down without a fight. Still, they were simply out-skated and out-classed by the Explorers throughout the night. Most loose pucks ended up in La Salle's possession and resulted in a goal. The team speed that the Explorers possess will be a problem for any team that has to face them going forward.
"I thought all the lines played hard and unselfish hockey,' Meuhlbronner said. "They went to the net hard and played things simple.'
Lloyd completed his hat trick 30 seconds into the period, followed by a goal each from Jack McDonough and Henry Kaechelin in quick succession. After La Salle grabbed its ninth goal of the game on a crazy deflection that went straight in the air and came down in the corner of the net, Charyzyn finished what he started with another breakaway goal to seal the mercy rule.
The two sides decided to play out the end of the period, which resulted in a goal by Daniel Rivera and a second by McDonough. While it was a great offensive night for the Explorers, shutting down O'Hara is not an easy task. They made it look easy, though, and put the rest of the bracket on notice — as if they weren't paying attention already.
"We have as good a shot as anybody [to win the Flyers Cup],' Muehlbronner said. "It's been a tight race throughout the league all year, but we've been there and we have a good shot to get there again. We just have to play our game and keep it simple going forward.'