April 4, 1985
For most high school hockey players, it would have been the game of their lives. But the way Mt. Lebanon goalie Hank Horn and forwards Mike and Phil Polomsky have been playing, last Thursday’s 5-0 victory over Upper St. Clair in the Class AAA Western Regional final was just another night at the rink. Horn stopped 26 USC shots to rack up his second straight playoff shutout. The Lebos’ senior has now made 97 saves in three playoff games, posting a 1.66 goals-against average.
The Polomsky twins merely ran amok for the third straight state playoff game as Phil registered three goals and an assist while Mike picked up a goal and four assists. The sophomore twins have now scored 14 of Mt. Lebanon’s 16 play- off goals. John Straub had the other goal for the Lebos. “I expected to beat Upper St. Clair, but I’m surprised we beat them so badly,” Mt. Lebanon Coach Bob Nascenzi said. “The defense did an excellent job of keeping Upper St. Clair from getting good shots and the ones they did get, Hank stopped.” Said Horn: “I was surprised to get a shutout, but I knew I could play like this. Last year Erie Prep beat us and went on to win states because I didn’t play very well and [Prep goalie Tim] Swale was great. Well, the same things are happening this year, only I’m Swale. The Polomskys are getting the goals, too, which makes my job a lot easier.” SHIHL champion Upper St. Clair finished the season with a 17-5-2 mark. The Lebos (14-8-2) will face their final and perhaps their toughest challenge of the season Saturday when they meet Conestoga (23-1) for the state title at 7 p.m. at the Face-Off Circle Rink in Warminster, Pa. (30 miles northwest of Philadelphia). Conestoga lost in the Flyers’ Cup (Philadelphia’s championship tournament) final, 3-2, to Cherry Hill (N.J.) East, but will still represent Philadelphia in the state final since Cherry Hill obviously can’t. Conestoga features forwards David Berkowitz, David Smink and Scott Cowan as well as goalie Scot McComas, who led the Flyers Cup in goaltending. A former Mt. Lebanon native and player, Greg Sparks, is also playing for Conestoga. According to state final coordinator Andy Richards of Philadelphia, the Mt. Lebanon-Conestoga final should be an even match-up. “Smink and Cowan are the equivalent of the Polomskys,” Richards said. “Horn is a better goalie than McComas, but McComas is capable. It should be a good game.”
Said Flyers’ Cup coordinator Andy Abramson: “Conestoga is a very solid team. They play a very disciplined, team game, and they never panic. They forecheck well and they pass the puck well. If they have a weakness, it might be on the specialty teams.” The Lebos’ biggest strengths are Horn, the Polomskys and senior right-wing Craig Maxwell. But, as Phil Polomsky pointed out, the Lebos’ defense has been an unsung factor in the state playoffs. “Our defense is playing so well,” he said. “I think [senior] Rob Crow played the best game of his life against Upper St. Clair the other night. [Sophomore] Brock Tisdale and [senior] Mike Vactor have been playing well, too.” Playing in Philadelphia obviously presents some handicaps, but Nascenzi is confident his team can conquer them. “We won’t have many fans and we won’t be familiar with the rink, but a good team can overcome those things,” Nascenzi said. “As far as any tricks they might pull, they couldn’t be worse than the things they’ve tried at Erie. We also have a lot of travel players that are used to playing in foreign rinks.” Nascenzi isn’t rattled by the prospect of playing a team he knows nothing about, either. “Our offense and defense is so adjustable that we should be able to change anything that has to be changed. I think it’s exciting to play a team that you’ve never played before. It’s more of a challenge.” Added Horn: “It’s like the teams I played with the Amateur Penguins. We didn’t know about them, so we just prepared to play our best. That’s what we’ll have to do here.”
Mt. Lebanon, which finished third in the SHIHL’s Class AAA Division, has been untouchable since Horn returned from a knee injury which sidelined him for the last half of the season. Now the Lebos are just one game away from becoming the first Pittsburgh-area team to win a state title since Western Pennsylvania and Philadelphia resumed the East- West series in 1981. Erie Prep won the state title last year. “This season has been really up and down,” Phil Polomsky said. “Since Hank came back, though, things have been great, and I’m real pleased with the way Mike and I are playing. I really didn’t expect to be in the state final, but I never thought we couldn’t be, either.” Added Mike Polomsky, “It would be a real disappointment to come this far and lose. But we’re real confident. It should be a tough game, but I think we can win it.” Horn has proven he can stop everybody the Lebos have played against, and the Polomskys have proven they can score on anyone the Lebos have played against. But how would they do against each other? “I’m just glad I don’t have to find out,” Horn laughed.
CREDIT: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Mark Madden – Post-Gazette Sports Writer