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Conestoga Pioneers win their first Pennsylvania Cup Championship

April 8, 1985

It has been said that all’s well that ends well, and right now, all’s well with the Conestoga ice hockey team. On Saturday night, the Pioneers ended a banner season by knocking off Mount Lebanon, 6-4, to win the 1985 Pennsylvania state championship. Winning the title helped the Conestoga skaters ease the pain of losing in the Flyers Cup final. It’s not often that a state title game can be considered a consolation game, but that was the situation when Conestoga met the Mount Lebanon Blue Devils at the Face Off Circle in Warminster. The Conestoga boys had had their sights set on winning the Flyers Cup last Monday evening, and everything else was considered inconsequential. But the Cougars of Cherry Hill East provided an unhappy ending for Conestoga when they skated off with a 3-2 victory in cup final. However, the Cherry Hill team was ineligible to advance to the Pennsylvania Cup game because the team is based in another state. That left Conestoga as the top team in eastern Pennsylvania and, consequently, the Flyers Cup representative in the state title game.

“Before we even went into the Flyers Cup final, we knew we were going to states, so we really wanted to win the Flyers Cup,” said Scott Cowan, a Conestoga forward and senior. “After the loss to Cherry Hill East, we were heartbroken. After a few days we decided to focus every- thing on winning the Pennsylvania Cup, because we didn’t want to come out with nothing this year.” Cowan scored enough goals Saturday night including three in a row in the first period to tie the entire Mount Lebanon team. In the first period, Joby Bray scored Conestoga’s first goal and Cowan the second, but the Blue Devils came back to tie the score at 2-2. A power play goal from Cowan and then an unassisted Cowan tally gave the Pioneers a 4-2 lead at the end of the period. Chip Graham scored early in the second period to increase the Pioneers’ lead to three, but Mount Lebanon countered with the remaining two goals of the period, making the score 54. However, slightly more than five minutes into third period, Cowan logged his fourth goal to close the game’s scoring and seal the victory for the eastern squad. The Flyers Cup final was a different story. Before the title game, Conestoga’s season had been one of perfection. The Pioneers had roared through their Intercounty Scholastic Hockey League regular season campaign without a loss or a tie, compiling 16 victories. A two-game sweep in the ICSHL semifinals (over West Chester) and a three-game sweep in the finals (over Downingtown) sent Conestoga into the Flyers Cup with an impressive 21-0 record. The Pioneers kept rolling in the Flyers Cup, opening with a convincing victory over Archbishop Ryan and advancing to the championship game via a strong victory over Haverford. Then it was time for the showdown, the title game, against the free-wheeling Cougars of Cherry Hill East. Conestoga controlled play for most of the first two periods and held a 1-0 lead at the end of two, thanks to an unassisted goal by Cowan with 2:36 remaining in the second period. The Cougars came back to tie the score five minutes into the third period on a goal by Jamie Leach, the most valuable player in the Flyers Cup tournament. A little more than a minute later, the Cougars took the lead when Mike Black slid one past Conestoga netminder Scot McComas. With just under five minutes left in the game, Conestoga’s David Smink took a face-off and set up a goal by John Riley, giving Conestoga the equalizer with 4:22 remaining on the Skatium clock. The next goal loomed as the game-winner, and it was.

Unfortunately for Conestoga, it was scored by Cherry Hill East’s Steve Kelley with 1:10 remaining in the game. “We knew we’d have a very difficult time against Conestoga,” said Tony Black, coach of Cherry Hill. East. “They were strong, and they broke down our strengths, especially coming out of the zone. Still, we knew we had a chance as long as we kept the puck in their zone. “Forechecking was the key for us. It was a great game between two teams that I really think deserved to be here, because they are the two best teams in the area.”