By Mike Ivcic

Special to The CS&T

With only a month remaining before the Flyers Cup resumes, it’s not out of the question for one to envision six or seven different schools taking the AAA title. Many observers of last year’s final between La Salle and Holy Ghost Prep have called the Explorers’ 4-1 win the greatest high school hockey game they ever witnessed, so 2009 certainly has a tough act to follow.

While the two aforementioned schools – who are widely considered to have best programs top to bottom – were expected to struggle a bit this season, both have produced better than anticipated results. Meanwhile, a few others have come to join (or in some cases, rejoin) the fun. Here’s the league breakdown through Jan. 27:

The Favorites

Archbishop Ryan: 9-2-2, 20 points
Key Players: Jayson Marbach, Don Olivieri, Tyler George

Analysis: Perhaps the most veteran squad, Ryan made its statement with an 11-5 win over Holy Ghost. Now they need to stay focused. The return to the upper tier is keyed by Olivieri, who’s not far from the all-time goals mark for a defenseman.

Holy Ghost Prep: 9-3-2, 20 points
Key Players: Rob Hoffman, Matt Skodowski, Steve Berardi

Analysis: Though Tom Seravalli is the leading scorer, the Firebirds need Hoffman and Skodowski to help the team buy into their top-notch system that produced success in the past. They are perhaps more talented than before, but also younger and sometimes inconsistent.

La Salle College High School: 7-0-4, 18 points
Key Players: Nick Cruice, Ross Denczi, Gabe Antoni

Analysis: Even with the championship, the playoffs have not been La Salle’s strong suit. The seniors need to show the group that March is much different from January and February. With four ties already, they’ll need Antoni to win them an inevitable overtime marathon as well.

The Contenters

Father Judge: 7-4-4, 18 points
Key Players: Steve Meade, Vincent DeJoseph, Matt Petitti

Analysis: This season’s loss of Ryan Patch to prep school hurt, but the Crusaders are full of upperclassmen who have picked up the slack. Petitti has a stellar 2.93 GAA, and Judge will never be outworked but must figure out a way to beat rivals Holy Ghost and Ryan to seriously contend.

Cardinal O’Hara: 7-5-2, 16 points
Key Players: Ricky DeRosa, Michael Marconi, Sean Coll

Analysis: O’Hara’s drop from the top level is partly from youth and partly from defensive struggles. Coll is the leader of an offense that has three of the league’s top four scorers, but March is about defense. If the Lions improve there, they can make the jump back up.

St. Joseph’s Prep: 7-3-1, 15 points
Key Players: Kyle Criscuolo, Joey Birmingham, Paul Sjostrom

Analysis: The Hawks first legitimate shot at a Cup starts with Sjostrom. The top four scorers are juniors and sophomores, so as the Hawks gain experience this year, they could go for it all in 2010. A break or two in their direction come March and ’10 might become ’09.

Malvern Prep: 3-6-1, 7 points
Key Players: David McFillin, Kyle Curley, Thomas Kane

Analysis: The Friars have lost two games (La Salle and Judge) where they gave up the winning goal late. Curley and Kane have struggled to score, but if they get going, the trend of losing late could be reversed and lead to a surprising run, especially with so many games at hand.

The Longshots

Roman Catholic: 2-9-0, 4 points
Key Players: David Hayes, Joseph Urban, Stephen Reddell

Analysis: Graduation crippled Roman more than any other program. Hayes leads the team in scoring with only 9 points in 11 games, so any upset potential will come from Reddell, tough team defense and capitalizing on every offensive opportunity.

Monsignor Bonner: 0-13-0, 0 points
Key Players: Brian Dolan, James Ketler, Brandon Trimback

Analysis: Bonner has struggled this season and remains winless, but the gap is not as big as it appears. Though it may be tough to find positives, one game of solid goaltending, tough defense and timely scoring could spoil the season for one of the contenders come tournament time.

Mike Ivcic is a freelance writer covering Eastern Pa. high school hockey. He can be reached at