On a picture perfect Sunday afternoon, Cardinal O’Hara High School’s ice hockey team accomplished something that the Philadelphia Flyers haven’t in 35 years.
It won the Cup.
While a Stanley Cup would be appreciated by the majority of local fans, O’Hara’s fans have absolutely no complaints that the “Cup” was the Flyers Cup, which for the past 31 years is presented to the best Class AAA team in Eastern Pennsylvania.
The Lions earned that distinction by blanking Malvern Preparatory School 2-0 at South Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center.
In winning their second Cup in four years, the Lions will play for the Pennsylvania State Cup April 1 against the winner of Western Pennsylvania’s Penguins Cup.
An early April Fools’ joke? Not a chance.
“This is the best feeling in my life,” said O’Hara forward Steve Falcone. “Nothing is better than this feeling.”
It was Falcone’s goal, assisted by linemates Mike Marconi and Ricky DeRosa, 44 seconds into the third period that proved to be the game winner.
When sophomore defenseman Eric Iamurri scored an insurance goal with only 1:43 remaining in regulation, O’Hara’s bench erupted.
The Lions realized there was virtually no way the Friars could rebound from a two-goal deficit with such little time left.
Throughout the game, the O’Hara defense had frustrated Malvern Prep into taking a stingy 19 shots on goal, only a few of which could be considered scoring opportunities.
Every time he was tested, O’Hara senior goalie Jeff Holland was up for the challenge.
Except for the two goals, the same could be said for his opponent in the other net. Though he ultimately lost, Malvern Prep netminder Corey Hughes (28 saves) kept the Friars alive with several outstanding saves.
“This feels great,” said Holland. “We just worked real hard the whole time. It was 0-0 for a long time, and we just persevered. Then we scored two goals, and that was it.”
Each player on O’Hara’s first line – Falcone, Marconi and DeRosa – was named first team, all-tournament. DeRosa, who assisted on both goals, was named the Flyers Cup tournament’s most valuable player.
DeRosa said that even though it took the Lions (15-3-3) longer than usual to score, he felt it was a matter of time before he or his teammates scored.
“We weren’t playing the way we normally do,” said DeRosa. “We just needed to get that first goal. Once we got that, we just had to keep playing our game.”
O’Hara coach Bill Swahl, who continually encouraged his senior-dominated squad to play more aggressively, agreed.
“We had to stay on top of them and not let up,” said Swahl. “There was no reason why we shouldn’t have been confident in our ability to win the game.”
Malvern had a goal disallowed late in the second period because the referee had blown the whistle before freshman Mike Horrocks’ shot found the cage. Other than that, it was pretty much all O’Hara.
When the final horn sounded, the Lions hurdled the boards with arms raised high and swarmed around Holland.
A few minutes later, they hoisted the Flyers Cup to the sky. Some thrusted the multi-tier trophy skyward; others kissed it.
Before taking a team picture while sprawled on the ice, the Lions hovered beneath the stands that were filled with adoring fans, a collective act of appreciation.
Cardinal O’Hara hadn’t exactly won the Stanley Cup.
But for the victorious Lions, it was pretty darn close.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.