April 14, 1986
The pressure was on the Conestoga ice hockey team this year. The team was the defending state champion, and its 1985-86 roster included many of the key players from last year’s squad. As it turned out, the Conestoga skaters did everything expected of them and more. Saturday night, they brought down the curtain on a remarkable season by upending Upper St. Clair, 4-2, in the Class AAA state championship game at the Mount Lebanon Ice Arena in suburban Pittsburgh. The Pioneers concluded their season with a perfect 30-0 record. The victory also gave Conestoga back-to-back state titles and marked the first time in the six-year history of the state playoffs that a team has won the championship twice. This year, Conestoga also captured the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League regular-season championship, the ICSHL playoff title and the Flyers Cup crown. “It’s been a long year. But we’re 30- 0, so it was worth it,” said Conestoga’s Chris Cummings, who was selected the most valuable player of the state championship game. “We just outplayed them tonight. When they got that first goal, I knew we were going to come back. Just like we did against Malvern.”
The host Panthers surprised Conestoga with a goal by Pete Shaffalo just 1 minute, 30 seconds into the game. At the 6-minute mark, though, Conestoga’s Don MacEwan scored the equalizer off an assist from Mike Coyne. “The goal came on my first shift of the game,” said MacEwan. “Mike [Coynel passed it to me, and I put a shot on goal. Their goalkeeper let the rebound drop at his pads, so I just followed up and knocked it in. I was very uplifted when I scored.” Two minutes later, Conestoga took the lead for good when Chip Graham set up a goal by Geordie Shaw. The only entry in the scoring column in the middle period came when Conestoga’s Bill Railton assisted on the insurance goal by Chris Cummings. Late in the third period, Cummings and Dave Smink picked up assists on a power-play goal by Railton to give Conestoga a commanding 4-1 lead. Upper St. Clair got one back with less than 2 minutes to play, but it was too little, too late. “They don’t compare to any of the teams we’ve played out here,” said Upper St. Clair coach Dave Hornack, whose team finished with a 23-3 record. “We haven’t seen anyone even close to them. They’re definitely the state champs. No doubt about it. “Everybody on their team was moving all the time. We play our game up and down the boards, while they were moving and cutting continually. Also, they forechecked very well. We just couldn’t get in close. They were strong in all parts of the game.”
Conestoga coach Taylor Railton agreed. “Our kids did a very nice job,” he said. “I don’t think we did too many things wrong tonight.” Railton and Hornack were no strangers. Prior to moving to the Delaware Valley a few years ago, Railton lived in suburban Pittsburgh and was the head coach at Upper St. Clair in the late 1970s. Hornack was a student at Upper St. Clair then, and he played for Railton in 1977-78. Conestoga’s victory marked the fifth time in the last six years that an eastern team has won the state Class AAA title. Archbishop Carroll won it in 1981, West Chester won it in 1982, and Germantown Academy won it in 1983. Erie Cathedral knocked off Archbishop Ryan in 1984, and then Conestoga captured the title in 1985. In the opener of the championship doubleheader, western champion Chartiers Valley rolled over Archbishop Wood of Warminster, 7-2, in the Class AA title game. The host Colts were paced by five goals from stellar forward Tim Tracy.
CREDIT: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Denny Dyroff – Special to the Inquirer