HATFIELD TOWNSHIP—The stars shined brightly at Hatfield Ice Monday evening. And in the end, Eric Slater lit up the night like a supernova. Slater’s goal 3 minutes, 25 seconds into overtime gave Pennridge a 4-3 decision over North Penn in a Flyers Cup Class AA quarterfinal.
The fourth-seeded Rams (16-2-3) will take a five-game winning streak and a 13-game unbeaten streak into Thursday’s semifinals against two-time defending Flyers Cup and state champion Downingtown East (5:15 at Ice Line).
Nathan Oh, playing in what turned out to be his final high-school game, delivered a hat trick for fifth-seeded North Penn (12-5-3).
It was a night when the best players on both teams came up big, but none more than Slater, who scored two goals and assisted on a third. His game-winner came on a shot from just beyond the faceoff circles off a feed from Matt Guinette. The shot beat Knight goaltender Nick Ebbinghaus on his stick (right) side but the freshman could not be faulted on the play.
“I was trying to drive the net,” Slater said. (Guinette) gave me a perfect pass. I made a move and shot it and hoped for the best.”
Pennridge coach Jeff Montagna said he was expecting Slater to step up at the start of the 15-minute sudden-death period. “He’s going to go every other shift in that overtime,” Montagna said, “and if we’re going to win, most likely, he’s going to win it for us.”
The Knights had far the best of the opening period, outshooting the Rams 15-3 but the session ended with teams deadlocked at one goal each. Oh gave North Penn the lead with a dash down the wing after his team own a faceoff in its own zone. He beat Pennridge goaltender Luke Stranick at the 7:39 mark. Slater answered back just under two minutes later with a wrister from the left wing after finding himself alone one on one with a Knight defenseman.
Michael Walker gave Pennridge the lead once more 63 seconds into the second period when he collected a feed from Guinette and made a move around a defender and beat Ebbinghaus.
The freshman came up big however with 1:50 left in the period however with a kick save on a shot from Walker that would have given the Rams a two-goal lead, Instead, Oh tied the game with 53.6 seconds left to send the teams to the third period all even.
Pennridge took the lead for the third time on Blake Stewart’s power-play goal with 5:17 left in the third period. With North Penn’s Will Hughes in the box serving a hooking minor, the Rams’ Franke Rota set up shot at the right point and sent a pass across the ice to Slater who launched a rocket along the ice. Stewart tipped the puck past Ebbinghaus.
Oh completed his hat trick with 2:16 left in regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Knights, who finished with a 37-21 wedge in shots, had a good chance early in the extra period 16-minute period but Stranick stood his ground and the teams played on until Slater delivered his game winner.
“You got Nate Oh on North Penn and Eric Slate on Pennridge,” North Penn coach Kevin Vaitis pointed out. “They’re two of the best high-school players in the (SHSHL) and definitely in the Flyers Cup tournament.
“They got the bounce to go their way in overtime and that’s part of the game. We were probably inches away from winning it there early in overtime and didn’t capitalize.”
North Penn 1 1 1 0—3
Pennridge 1 1 1 1—4
First-period goals: Nathan Oh (NP) from Jared Albano, 7:39; Eric Slater (MP) from Frankie Rota, 9:36;
Second-period goals: Michael Walker (P) from Matt Guinette, 1:03; Oh (NP) from Jake Nelson, 15:07
Third-period goals: Blake Stewart (P) from Walker and Rota, 10:43 (pp); Oh (NP) from Albano, 13:44
Overtime goal: Slater (P) from Guinette, 3:25
Shots: North Penn 37, Pennridge 21; Saves: Nick Ebbinghaus (NP) 17, Luke Stranick (P) 34