April 3, 1996

The journey to Johnstown will begin Friday for the Upper Darby ice hockey team, which is set to meet Greensburg Central Catholic in Saturday’s Class AA state championship. Game time will be 1:30 p.m. at Johnstown’s War Memorial Arena. It is the second game of a triple-header, coming after the Class AAA championship and preceding the Class A championship. It will be a bonanza for high school hockey fans, especially those from Western Pennsylvania. War Memorial Arena holds approximately 4,000 fans. And many of them will be rooting for Greensburg Central Catholic, which is only 30 miles west of Johnstown. Upper Darby, which is approximately 250 miles from Johnstown, already has come a long way this season. The Royals (18-5-1) and the Centurions of GCC (19-5-1) have similar records, and both arrived at the state title game in a similar fashion. Upper Darby beat Central Bucks East, 3-2, in overtime to win the Class AA Flyers Cup championship Thursday at the Skatium. GCC rallied for a 4-3 win over Indiana on Monday to clinch the AA Penguins Cup title and secure a state berth. Upper Darby has an accomplished goalie in senior Kevin Kuzmick, who stopped Central Bucks East on several breakaways Thursday. “Kuzmick is on top of his game,” Upper Darby coach Andy Crawford said. “He has really been hot, so we’ve been able to take chances.” A member of the Upper Darby ice hockey program since the seventh grade, Kuzmick earned the starting goalie’s job outright this season. Through the Royals’ playoff run, each game has been bigger than the previous one. And he has survived each challenge. “It’s a little nerve-racking,” he said. Senior forwards Scott Carr and Mike Saraceni have played with Kuzmick since the eighth grade. Carr is the squad’s leading scorer and assistant captain, and Saraceni is the captain. Senior forward Quyen Ta is another assistant captain and a for- ward. Seniors Nick Fitti and Huy Phan are also valuable members of the offense. Phan is the Royals’ playmaker. The talent has been there all season, but it has meshed in the last two months. “It’s been a growing process for them,” Crawford said. “They realized they could be more successful as a team than as individuals. It’s been a great season for the kids.”

Expectations exceeded. Monsignor Bonner nearly duplicated its accomplishments from last season with an almost entirely different team. The Friars (20-6-1), who won the Eastern League Class AAA championship, advanced to the quarterfinals of the Flyers Cup tournament before falling to Washington Township (N.J.), 4-1, March 26 at the Skatium. Only four players were back from the team that advanced to the semi-finals last season. “They were a young team that really pulled together,” Bonner coach Mike Barry said. “I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we did. We had a lot of youth that hadn’t been in playoff situations, but they really performed well.” The four senior returning players included defenseman and captain Eric Kuchler. His assistant captains were forwards Anthony Allegreni and Mike Apalucci and defenseman Nick Liberatore, the other seniors. Sophomore goalie Bobby Smith was also integral to the Friars’ success. “For a sophomore, he showed a lot of poise in difficult situations,” Barry said. Bonner likely will remain solid with the players who developed on the varsity this year. With 64 players in the program, the Friars this season fielded two junior varsity teams, one of which won the league championship.

Bucs’ ship is in. In only its second year of competing as a varsity sport and its third year of existence, the Interboro hockey team has arrived. The Bucs (17-6-1) rebounded from last year’s two-win season and advanced to the semifinals of the Class A Flyers Cup tournament before losing to St. Pius, 6-1, on March 26 at Ice Line. “It was a big change from last year,” coach Dale Nyhus said. “I’m really proud they got a taste of play in the Flyers Cup.” There likely will be more tastes in the future. A key to this season’s team was the play of freshman cen- ter Dave Dorman and freshman wingers Jim Cerenzia and Brian Rhoads. “I was leery of them being freshmen, but they performed,” Nyhus said. Senior center Rick Orme and senior defenseman Bill Pike were the captains. The return of senior winger Kevin Kauffman and junior cen- ter Keith Davis to the team after a year off also gave the Bucs a spark. First-year goalie Dennis Orner was steady all season.

By Ira Josephs
Philadelphia Inquirer Correspondent