Flyers Cup run ends, states next
As the Parkland hockey team exited the ice after a 6-3 loss to Cherokee (NJ) in Flyers Cup final at the Rink at Warwick on Tuesday night, a large contingent of red and gray clad fans cheered and shouted words of encouragement.
A storybook run for the 11th-seeded Trojans struck midnight against a fast, powerful Chiefs team, which used three second period goals in five minutes to seal the championship and hand Parkland its first loss of the year.
Funny thing about Cinderella, though. Her story didn't end with a lost slipper. Her prince worked tirelessly to track her down and destiny may still find this hard-working Trojan team.
Parkland will play for another major trophy on Saturday afternoon when it takes on the Penguins Cup winner, either Pine-Richland or Latrobe, for the state championship at the IceWorks Rink in Aston at 1:30 p.m.
The lessons learned from Tuesday night's loss could prove valuable as the best hockey team in Lehigh Valley history tries to prove it's the best in Pennsylvania.
"Coming in as a low seed and having everyone underestimate us and then winning all these games, I think it made us a little cocky," team captain and all-tournament defensman Jay Swartz said. "I think this knocked us down a couple pegs. It probably brings us back to reality a little bit. Saturday's going to be a bigger game, and I'd rather win states than win [the Flyers Cup]."
For a little while, it looked like Parkland would have a shot at winning both.
After withstanding an early onslaught from Cherokee, Brett McHale found Nick Chandik open in front of the net for a quick goal to put Parkland on top 1-0. It was the Trojans' first chance of the game.
But the Chiefs were quick to answer. Brian Miller, the tournament's leading point-scorer, broke loose for an unassisted goal to tie the game. Just a minute and a half later, Dylan Bradley fired a wrister past Parkland's all-Cup goalie Robbie Stock for a 2-1 lead.
The Trojans knotted it in the second on a Colin Pratt shot from near the blue line, but two goals from Cole Zucker and one from John Martino - all on assists from Aaron Huffnagle - put the game nearly out of reach at 5-2 to end the second.
Miller added his second goal midway through the third and Morgan Bensinger had a late tally for Parkland to close the scoring. Cherokee held a 30-11 advantage in shots, as Stock came up with 24 saves to keep his team in the game.
"Off the bat they just kind of took us off our game plan," Stock said. "They passed it very well and took away the middle of the ice. It's something we definitely have to address for Saturday."
The result doesn't take away from the historic performance of the Trojans. They became the first team from the Lehigh Valley to win a first round game in Flyers Cup history, downing Abington 3-1. Parkland followed that up with a pair of upsets against third seed Downingtown East (3-0) and the second seed North Penn (2-1 OT) last Thursday. The six goals they held Cherokee to on Tuesday was the Chiefs' lowest output of the tournament.
The fan support showed with parents, alumni and current students flooding the Rink at Warwick as the run continued. The team expects the same support on Saturday when it plays for a state title.
"The people that came before us deserve this so much more than we do. We've just been playing for them and we're happy to represent not only all the alumni, but the Lehigh Valley as well," Stock said. "Our fans have been our heart and soul all year. Words can't describe what they've meant to this team. We're disappointed to let them down, but hopefully we can make up for it on Saturday."
"If we had to write a script, we just would change one thing - the result [Tuesday night]," head coach Gerry Chandik said.
Saturday, they'll have one last chance to make their final chapter a storybook ending.