John Knebels

Sports Columnist

Twice in his high school career, Dave Bowman, a senior at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, was faced with a difficult choice.

Should he do the sensible thing and not play ice hockey with his torn anterior cruciate ligament? Or should the puck-carrying defenseman just lace up the skates and deal with the pain through virtually every twist and turn?

“I know it doesn’t sound logical,” said Bowman, a defender. “But, well … I really love to play hockey.”

Ya think?

Faced with the dilemma as a sophomore, Bowman, a member of Richboro’s St. Vincent DePaul Parish, played through the injury and then had surgery during the summer. After tearing the same ligament in September, he decided he will do the same thing sometime during the off-season.

And he’s not even complaining about it.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but it’s definitely been worth it,” said Bowman, who doubts he will be able to play next year at Duquesne University, where he tentatively plans to major in business. “Besides my family and school, hockey is basically what it’s all about.”

Regardless of where someone stands on his decision, Bowman can be considered the poster child of a Holy Ghost Prep team that has a seriously strong chance to emerge as Flyers Cup champions a month or so from now.

Despite his injury, Bowman has played in every game this year and is among the team’s leading scorers in goals (five) and points (15).

“We have a lot of dedicated players,” said senior Brendan Bradley, a graduate of Wyncote’s Ancillae-Assumpta Academy who lives “a few seconds away” from Bowman. “It’s a good group of guys who expect to win every game and finish as champions.”

A left wing and HGP’s leading scorer with 22 points and 28 assists, Bradley is joined by senior right wing Brendan Roberts and junior center Matt McEntee on what many consider the most lethal scoring line in the state. Including Monday night’s 7-1 victory over St. Joseph’s Prep that raised the Firebirds’ record to 17-2-1 overall and 11-1-1 in Class AAA, the trio has accounted for 48 goals and 115 points.

Even though the Firebirds rely heavily on those three, players such as senior Austin Meehan (10 goals), freshman Kevin Kerr (five goals) and junior Pat Quarry (five goals) have provided important contributions. Bradley emphatically points out that Holy Ghost is far from a three-star team.

“We’ve gotten some other big goals and our defense and goalie (senior Jake Purnell) have come up huge,” Bradley said. “All of us have the same goal. We want to not only win the Flyers Cup, we want to win the state championship, too.”

Holy Ghost has never seized a state championship, but they have collected two Flyers’ Cups (in 2003 and 2007) and been to four finals, including a loss to eventual state champ La Salle in 2008.

Since then, the Firebirds have gone backwards, losing to Father Judge in overtime in 2009 and then getting stunned by Roman Catholic in last year’s quarterfinals.

Bradley still can’t stomach the latter defeat.

“We were definitely the best team in the state last year, and then to not get it done was very frustrating,” Bradley said. “But that’s what happens when the season comes down to a best of one. The best team doesn’t always win.”

Holy Ghost rarely loses on its home ice, Grundy Ice Rink in Bristol, and this year remains undefeated. Both Bradley and Bowman credited loyal Holy Ghost fans for much of their home-ice success.

Bradley said that while most of HGP’s opponents rarely attract more than 50 fans, several contests this year have drawn approximately 500 Holy Ghost zealots. Like Bradley, Bowman said that when he looks to the stands and sees a throng of boisterous supporters – most of them clad in red and blue – it motivates the Firebirds to reach levels they didn’t even know existed.

“It’s one of the most popular sports in the school,” Bowman said. “We really want to win a cup for them. And if we get the cup, I think we have a great chance to win states.”

Nothing illogical about that.

John Knebels can be reached at