March 9, 2001

The Malvern Prep winger is now a star in his own right.

Phil McKeon had to be patient, biding his time behind a long list of stars for the Malvern Prep ice hockey team. Things are different this season. McKeon is no longer just another player. He has blossomed into one of the top players in the area. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound junior right winger was among the top scorers for the Friars last season with 27 points. This season, the only player to amass more points than McKeon (16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points) is teammate Jimmy Gehring (39 points), The Inquirer’s Chester County player of the year last season. “I wanted to take hockey a lot more seriously this year,” McKeon said. “I was tired of almost getting close to winning the Flyers Cup and not getting there. My freshman year, we lost and I didn’t think anything of it. Last year, we lost and I started to see all of these seniors graduate. It started to hit me – I had only two more years left, and I’m not leaving high school without a Flyers Cup.” McKeon is a physical player who handles the puck well, especially in traffic. He also has good moves and an accurate shot. Gehring plays on a line with Mike McMullen and Tim Wolchok, while McKeon’s linemates are sophomores Brett Watson and Mike Curran. Those players give Malvern two high-scoring lines. “[McKeon has] has improved every year with us,” said Father Ed Casey, Malvern’s assistant coach. “Phil is very strong on his skates. He has a low center of gravity. What Phil does for us is enable us to put together two scoring lines, and he leads a line of sophomores. Opposing teams can’t really do anything to stop us, because we can go to another scoring line if one isn’t working.” There was one stretch this season in which McKeon’s line carried the Friars. It contributed heavily to victories over West Chester East, Conwell-Egan, and Monsignor Bonner. McKeon’s play along the boards is better than in past years, Father Casey said. That could be attributed to McKeon’s commitment to getting himself bigger, stronger, and faster in the off-season. Summer for McKeon used to involve working construction and working out sporadically. “I used to spend weekends down the Shore, and I’d just be lazy,” he said. “It was just hard coming off each year, getting

hurt near the end of the year.”McKeon battled shoulder problems for most of last season. He suffered torn ligaments in his right shoulder because of the wear and tear of 14 years of playing hockey. The Flyers received an automatic bye into the Flyers Cup playoffs. “This season would be complete for me only if we win a Flyers Cup,” McKeon said. “All of the scoring, all of the goals that was just the beginning of the Flyers Cup. It wouldn’t mean as much if we didn’t win it.”


Defending champ Carroll knows it is the team to beat

But senior David Moccia and company are confident going into the Class AA playoffs.

With the Flyers Cup playoffs approaching, the Archbishop Carroll ice hockey team is in everyone’s crosshairs, but the Patriots know that just comes with being the Class AA defending champions. Carroll goes into the playoffs not just as the defending champion, but also with one of the area’s deadliest offensive threats in senior David Moccia. The Patriots will open the playoffs against Lower Merion at 6:30 Tuesday night at Ice Line in West Chester. “We know we are [a target],” said Moccia, who has scored 24 goals and 30 assists in league games. “There is some pressure we’re going to have to deal with. We’ll have to take every game one step at a time and play our best. Our goal since the beginning of the year is to win the Flyers Cup again. If we play our best, I don’t know if any team in the Inter-County could beat us.” The Patriots won the Inter-County Class AA Division with a 13-3 record. Carroll has not been completely healthy this season, but it seems the Patriots could have their entire team back for the playoffs.

Malvern AAA favorite. Malvern Prep is in a familiar role as high school ice hockey begins its second season the playoffs. Malvern, a perennial powerhouse, is yet again a major hurdle any hockey hopeful has to clear with the Flyers Cup playoffs looming. The state championships are scheduled to be contested at the Skatium in Havertown beginning on April 1, and a number of area teams have solid chances of being there on the ice, rather than watching from the stands. But first, there’s the battle for the Flyers Cup. The Friars clinched a Flyers Cup Class AAA playoff berth by winning the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League Class AAA Division, but they can expect playoff challenges from a number of teams, including Cardinal O’Hara, West Chester East, and West Chester Henderson. “I think Malvern is the team to beat because they beat us the last time we played them,” said O’Hara coach Bill Swahl, whose team opens its playoff run against Episcopal Academy tonight at the Skatium after finishing the regular season with a 19-2-1 record. “To get to the Flyers Cup championship, you have to go through Malvern. But I don’t have a problem saying I’m confident my team can compete with them,” Swahl said. Malvern is not scheduled to play until March 20, after finishing its regular season 14-2 in the Inter-County Class AAA and 25-6-1 overall. In the past, the long layoff has hurt the Inter-County team that received the bye to the Flyers Cup. “There is a two-edged sword to this, because you can lose your sharpness, and the positive is that you’ve earned your Flyers Cup berth,” said Father Ed Casey, the Friars’ assistant coach. “We’ll take better steps this year to maintain our sharpness, like better scrimmages during practices and working on better game situations.” The Friars suffered an upset loss to La Salle, 6-3, on Feb. 16. “I think we took the game lightly and we weren’t mentally prepared, but it was a good lesson and something we’ll learn from down the line,” Father Casey said.

Class A outlook. Strath Haven and Springfield could be on a collision course to meet in the Flyers Cup Class A playoffs. Strath Haven is going for its third straight trip to the Flyers Cup playoffs and also is going for a third straight Inter-County League Class A title. But the Panthers could have the tougher road to the Flyers Cup, having to go through Radnor and Methacton. Strath Haven enjoyed its first undefeated season in the Inter-County League, with a 16-0 finish in the league’s Class A South Division. Overall, the Panthers were 22-3, a school record for victories. Strath Haven will open the playoffs with a 9 p.m. game Tuesday against Coatesville at Ice Line. The Panthers scored 119 goals in 16 league games and surrendered just 30 goals. Strath Haven coach John Murry’s main concern all season has been how his team would fare against the better teams in the Class A overall. In Strath Haven’s one meeting against Methacton, the Panthers lost, 5-2. “We’ve been playing a little better defense, and the offense has come so easily, we want to focus more on defense,” Murry said. “Our goaltending has been solid, and we started this season with the goal to win the Flyers Cup. We’re not satisfied. We’re 16-0 and we’re still hungry.” The best matchup at the Class A level could be between Methacton and Radnor. The Red Raiders tied Methacton, 5-5, in the first game and then came back to beat the Warriors, 2-1, on a late goal in the second meeting during the regular season. Like Strath Haven, Radnor amassed its best league and overall record in team history at 15-0-1. “Methacton has a lot of goal scorers up front,” said Radnor’s leading scorer, John Brennan, whose team will open the playoffs against Boyertown at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at King of Prussia. “We’re… the same exact team as they are. We have players who can score, and their defense is just like our defense. It’s going to be a war, I think the best playoff series in Class A.” Springfield may have the most incentive of any team in Class A. The Cougars went undefeated through the regular season last year, only to lose in the Eastern League Class AA championships to Roman Catholic. This season, Springfield won the Eastern League Class A title with a 10-6-1 record and opened the Eastern League playoffs with an 8-1 victory over Chichester on Monday night. The Cougars will play for the Eastern League Class A championship in a best-of-three series. Their opponent will be the winner of the Bonner II-O’Hara II game scheduled for 8 p.m. Monday at the Skatium Havertown. While Springfield will be without defenseman Ben Mortenson, who has a knee injury, another banged-up defenseman, Chris Mace, is going to try to get through the playoffs. Mace suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a game against Ridley on Feb. 5. The star defenseman received word on Tuesday that he might be able to play while wearing a brace to support the injured area. “I didn’t want to play the whole season, then miss the most important part,” Mace said. “The knee hurts and I won’t be allowed to skate until I have the brace on. I’m going to try to play. I’m not saying I’m definitely going to be able to play, but if the brace fits and does what it’s supposed to, I’ll be able to play. The biggest concern is tearing more cartilage.”

By Joe Santoliquito
The Philadelphia Inquirer