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March 30, 1985
It has been a long climb to the top for the Cherry Hill East hockey team. The Cougars have survived such drawbacks as no available practice facility, an hour drive to the nearest rink for games, the anonymity that comes from being a club and not a varsity team, and such indignities as being kept out of the Flyers Cup two years ago by virtue of their home in South Jersey. Despite the drawbacks, the Cougars are within one win of capturing the sixth Flyers Cup, the regional scholastic hockey tournament that will wind up Monday night. Cherry Hill East will meet Cones- toga in the Flyers Cup championship game. The game is in the Skatium in Havertown, with face-off at 8 p.m. Since East was kept out of the Cup two years ago, a victory Monday would be the greatest kind of vindication. The Cougars (and Bishop Eustace Prep) joined the Suburban Hockey League in the fall of 1982. The two schools were the only non- Pennsylvania teams in the four leagues that send their champions to the Flyers Cup.

When East shocked the league by grabbing the crown in its first sea- son of membership, the four leagues did not permit them to enter the 1983 Flyers Cup, because the winner of that tournament goes to the Pennsylvania Cup against the winner of the western Pennsylvania playoff. “How,” the league fathers asked, “can we let a team from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, win the Pennsylvania state championship.” So, East stayed home. “That was no big deal,” said East’s first-year coach Tony Black. “We knew what the rule was before it happened. A lot of people made a bigger thing of it than it was. Going in it was already determined that we would not represent the league if we won the playoffs. So there was no let down. We had already achieved what we wanted our cup was beating Germantown Academy.” GA was the defending Flyers Cup champion that spring, and went on to win it again, behind the inspired goaltending of Michael Richter. Now at Wisconsin, Richter is considered a strong contender to be in goal for the United States in the 1988 Winter Olympics.

The best anyway
There is little doubt that Cherry Hill East was the best scholastic hockey team in the Delaware Valley that spring two years ago. So that’s why the current dash to the Flyers Cup title game is such a thrill. The Cougars required four overtimes to win the Suburban League playoff final over Council Rock, 6-5, to make the Cup. “The parents say the kids didn’t leave their beds for three days after that,” Black said. “Then we had to play a 10-minute overtime in the first night of the Flyers Cup [March 22].” The Cougars lost to Haverford, 54, that night, but have been coming back since then in the double-elimination tournament. They ousted de- fending champion Archbishop Ryan, 7-2, Monday night, then rallied past Haverford, 2-1, Wednesday. “We’re not playing as well as we should be playing,” Black said. “That’s what’s got me scared. It’s just a thing where we’ve played so much hockey in the last two weeks. At one point it was seven games in seven days, and that took a little out of us. You try to develop a rhythm at the end of the season, and that disrupted us a bit.

Good goalie
“But Dave Katz (the Cougars’ goalie) has been wonderful. He’s helped us through some tight spots. Even though we lost in the first game, we might have been blown out. He gave us the opportunity to get back in it. He played very well against Ryan, and against Haverford he gave up only one goal.” But East’s strong point probably has been that the Cougars have two good lines. “We have two solid lines,” Black said, “which is something you usual- ly don’t have in high school hockey. One night one will go well; the next night, the other will go well.” East’s first line has Mike Black (the coach’s son) centering for Ja- mie Leach (son of former Flyers winger Reggie Leach), and Dave Kelly. The second line has Jeff Cook and Mike Kurlej alternating at center, with Todd Lehr a fixture on the wing. East also has an ironman defense, led by Mark desGroseilliers. Unfortunately, he was in Montreal at a relative’s funeral two weeks ago and missed two Suburban League playoff games. So Kenny Hoffman and Steve Hollander played the whole way. So the Cougars (26-3-1) will put the season on the line Monday against Conestoga. It may not be of much significance now, but the two played a non-league game six weeks ago in 1 King of Prussia. East won it, 7-2.

CREDIT: The Philadelphia Inquirer