by Tom Utescher
The ice hockey team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy not only honored its seniors at last Wednesday’s home game, it extended their careers. With a 7-2 victory over visiting Pennington School, the Blue Devils clinched the fourth spot for the four-team Independence Hockey League tournament, which had been up for grabs between SCH and the Red Raiders of Pennington.
The Devils lost to the Jersey franchise by a 7-4 count earlier in the season, but for much of the 2016-17 campaign the SCH squad – only 15-strong to begin with – was hampered by numerous injuries. Just about back at full strength for last Wednesday’s joust at the Wissahickon Skating Club, Springside Chestnut Hill was able to raise its record to 5-8, while Pennington departed at 2-13.
Before the game, the hosts honored seniors Blake Fennessey, Zach Messerle, and first-year player Malcolm Glendinning. The first two have not finalized their college plans, while Glendinning has signed on to play lacrosse at Boston University.
Glendinning scored the first goal of the game, and Messerle’s second goal of the afternoon put the final point on the board. The high scorer was freshman Ethan Gyllenhaal, with two goals and two assists, and his ninth-grade classmate Liam Peterson made 19 saves in goal.
Before the contest a moment of silence was held for Nick Bond, a Springfield High School senior who played hockey at Wissahickon and who passed away suddenly on Monday. He’d been hospitalized the day before following a club hockey game.
A little over two-and-a-half minutes into Wednesday’s contest, an SCH shot from out near the right face-off circle was saved by the Pennington keeper, but the Blue Devils kept the puck close to the cage and Glendinning stuffed it in from a few feet outside the left post.
After putting up that first point with 2:41 elapsed, Springside Chestnut Hill killed a two-minute penalty as the clock dropped from 10:17 to 8:17. Peterson came up with several saves here, and a strong Raiders shot from the left side went wide of the top right corner of the cage.
With both teams at full strength, Pennington’s Logan Harris jabbed in a loose puck in front of the goal to tie the bout with 7:11 left in the first period. The deadlock was broken just 16 seconds later, when Gyllenhaal set-up an SCH goal by Matt Kestenbaum.
A Penn Charter junior who plays soccer in the fall and rows in the spring, Kestenbaum takes to the ice with SCH in the winter since his school has no hockey team. Fortunately for the sport of high school hockey, the league has no problem with this, and Kestenbaum was glad to be back in action Wednesday after being out sick for a spell.
After only another 18 seconds ticked away, the Blue Devils had the eventual game-winning goal on the board. Gyllenhaal earned the assist once more, this time slipping the puck to freshman Adam Smith for the score. With 16 seconds left in the period, Messerle’s first goal of the game (unassisted) sent SCH into the second stanza with a 4-1 lead.
Early in the second round one of the Raiders got loose on a breakaway, but Glendinning hustled back to harry him on the shot, and Peterson stopped the puck. Penalties kept both teams off-stride for much of the period and the scoreboard didn’t budge. At the very end, though, Pennington was trying to clear the puck up the right wing when Gyllenhaal took it away and went in to score with just four-tenths of a second remaining.
The Blue Devils started the final round with a 5-1 advantage, and that was a good thing, because they put themselves in the position of playing short-handed for significant stretches. Fortunately for the home team and its supporters, the Jersey skaters were only able to cash in on one of these opportunities, with Matt Reilly closing up the score to 5-2 with 12:38 remaining.
A little later, overlapping penalties had SCH playing two men down for one minute and 26 seconds, but the Devils didn’t allow another goal by the visitors. In the last three minutes, Gyllenhaal and Messerle each scored a second goal to stick the 7-2 final on the board.
Springside Chestnut Hill moved on into the playoffs, headed for a challenging semifinal against the top seed, undefeated Germantown Academy.