March 17, 2004

La Salle goaltender Ken Wochele is hoping to lead the Explorers back to the Flyers Cup final.

Ken Wochele thought it was something cool. He didn’t mind wearing the bulky protective pads or wearing a baseball glove or an ancient waffleboard that had a lingering smell to it. He was a second grader, around 7, and he remembers all of it with a smile. That’s when the La Salle junior began his love affair with hockey and with goaltending. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Wochele is one of the best goaltenders in the area. La Salle will be depending on him to lead the team back to the Flyers Cup Class AAA championship game. La Salle’s road to the cup begins with a game at 6:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of tonight’s first-round matchup between Hershey and Downingtown. Wochele doesn’t mind the pressure. He has a 12-12-1 record overall, and is 7-2-1 in the Elite Eight Class AAA League, with a 2.40 goals-against average and three shutouts. Wochele played an important role in the Explorers’ trip to the Flyers Cup finals last year, although they lost, 2-1, to three-time champ Malvern Prep. He would welcome a rematch with the Friars in the title game, scheduled for March 29 at the Wachovia Spectrum. “To be honest, I wouldn’t mind facing Malvern again,” said Wochele, 17, a resident of Woodlyn, Delaware County. “The rivalry goes a long way back between La Salle and Malvern, and somehow, these two teams hate each other. It’s something I found out last year…. know when Malvern and La Salle play each other, everyone gets hyped over it.” Wochele was thrown into the rivalry for the first time last year. He had transferred to La Salle after playing his freshman year for Ridley. He concedes that he transferred to La Salle because of hockey. It’s a 90-minute round-trip commute every day from Wochele’s Woodlyn home to the La Salle campus in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County. “One of the guys on my club team played for La Salle,” Wochele said. “We ended up talking to the people at La Salle, and we were told it was a good school and a good program to play for. I was looking for a better school that had a stronger hockey team.” Wochele had an immediate impact with the Explorers last year, starting almost every game and playing a role in La Salle’s trip to the Flyers Cup championship. He turned away almost 30 shots in keeping La Salle close. This season, Wochele is performing at the same level. His .500 overall record is deceiving because the Explorers play some of the best high school teams and participate in the most competitive tournaments in the country. But he knows that won’t compare to the intensity of these next two weeks. La Salle enters the Flyers Cup tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Explorers lost twice to Malvern, 4-3 and 4-1. Wochele, who prefers a butterfly style, made 32 saves in the first game and had 31 saves in the second Malvern game. “Wochele is a big kid who doesn’t get caught out of position, and he plays his angles well,” Malvern Prep’s Chris Campanale said. “He’s big and moves very well for his size. The only way to really beat him is to get him moving laterally or to get a rebound on him when he doesn’t have a chance to react. You look at our games against La Salle, and it seems as if we’re blowing them out. He’s tough to face, because he doesn’t get rattled easily, and it can get frustrating for the shooter when you’re [taking] 30 or 40 shots and they’re not going in.” Right now, Wochele’s biggest priority is to win the Flyers Cup. “I think I play my best when I have a lot of pressure on me,” Wochele said. “I can’t answer why, it’s just the way I am. I’d rather have a game when I’m getting blasted and pulling off a win.”

By Joe Santoliquito
The Philadelphia Inquirer