March 26, 1997

The Pioneers talked a lot in team meetings – and then did something about it in their Flyers Cup final.

There were preseason meetings and pregame meetings. Meetings in players’ homes and meetings in the locker room. Meetings with and without coaches, and meetings on and off the ice. They culminated in the most memorable meeting of them all, a jubilant, impromptu pileup at mid-ice after Conestoga clinched the Class AA Division Flyers Cup title. With an 8-4 victory over Bensalem in Tuesday night’s championship at the Skatium, the Pioneers advanced to the state title game, on April 12. They will meet their Western counterparts, the Penguins Cup champions. With the game more than two weeks away, the Pioneers (19-2) could rejoice over their accomplishments before looking ahead. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t expect to be here,” coach Mike Stagnaro said. “After the loss to Unionville at the end of February, we had a lot of meetings and tried a lot of things. Looking back, you can’t compare.” Conestoga overcame Unionville, its nemesis, to win the Inter-County League title and knocked off previously undefeated Episcopal Academy to advance to the title game. With a shoulder injury and ill- ness, assistant captain Mike Ormsbee wasn’t at full strength for either game. Back against Bensalem, the junior blasted in five goals and was named the most valuable player in the championship. “It’s unbelievable,” Ormsbee said. “I never would have expected it.” Said Stagnaro: “Tonight was a breakout game for Ormsbee. It was huge. He is one of our leaders.” Bensalem owned a 1-0 first-period lead before the Pioneers dominated the second with five unanswered goals, four by Ormsbee. Conestoga also got goals from senior captain Mike Graves, sophomore assistant captain Phil Cottone, and freshman Paul Schuster. Graves had two assists, and freshman Eric Vogel had three. Freshman goalie Greg Feiner made 23 saves before senior Ben Peirce took over in the third period.

Friars over Friars. The hottest team over the entire season, Malvern Prep, met one of the playoffs’ top producers, Monsignor Bonner, in Tuesday’s Class AAA Flyers Cup semifinal. Fans of both teams jammed the Skatium and were treated to a tight game that wasn’t decided until midway through the third period.
Malvern won, 4-2, and begins play in the best-of-three championship series against Council Rock tonight at the Face-Off Circle. After jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by senior Matt Matlack and sophomore Chris Mavromates, Malvern (31-2) saw its lead evaporate in the second. Bonner (11-10-3) tied the score on a pair of goals by senior Matt Carey. Senior Jared Ingersoll backhanded in the winner, on assists from senior Oliver Bedwell and freshman Joe Testa. Bedwell added an empty-net goal with 11 seconds left. “The seniors have been dreaming about this since freshman year,” In- Ingersoll said. “Since the beginning of the season, it’s all we have thought about, going to the final.” Junior goalie Bob Smith allowed Bonner to catch up with one miraculous save after another. He finished with 37 saves. “We knew they would come out fired up and hitting,” Malvern coach John Graves said. “We thought if we could survive the first period, we could win the game.” Bonner, which won six games during the regular season, nearly equaled that total with its playoff run of 5-1. “It was a phenomenal effort,” Bonner coach Mike Barry said. “We struggled all year with injuries. All year I said, ‘It matters in March.’ They continued to work. I love these guys to death.”

Marple magic. Marple Newtown’s marvelous playoff drive continues tomorrow at Ice Line in the Class A Flyers Cup championship game. The Tigers upset the defending champion, St. Pius X, by 4-2 in the semifinals Thursday at the Skatium. “It was huge,” Marple coach Jeff Doyle said. “We were there through hot goaltending and timely goals. We were definitely the underdogs.” Senior Josh Jacquette piled up 35 saves. Scoring one goal each were senior Dave Bickle, juniors John Di- Battista and Rob Havens, and sophomore Chris Lang. Defensive strength was provided by junior Mike McDowell. “He was hitting the whole game,” Doyle said. Already confident before the Pius game, the Tigers (10-8-2) are playing their best hockey of the season. “They are riding high now,” Doyle said. “It keeps on building.”

By Ira Josephs
Philadelphia Inquirer Correspondent