March 14, 2006

O’Hara is the favorite in AAA action, while Cherokee is a formidable contender in AA play.

Here is a look at the 27th annual Flyers Cup tournament, which began yesterday:

AAA preview. The leader in the division heading into the tournament is Cardinal O’Hara. O’Hara finished 9-0-2, with ties against the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, La Salle and Germantown Academy, respectively. GA and La Salle are longtime rivals and finished with 8-1-1 records. La Salle was awarded the No. 2 seed based on a 6-3 victory on Feb. 14 over GA. Malvern Prep finished the regular season as the No. 4 seed with a 7-2-2 record. A first-round bye is awarded to the first four teams in the division. With the top four teams finishing within four points of one another, the AAA division seems to be wide open. No. 5 Holy Ghost Prep, No. 6 Archbishop Ryan, and No. 7 Father Judge are solid teams that could shock a higher seed and get into the third round. Last season, Malvern Prep, the five-time defending champion, came out of the No. 3 seed to win the Cup, defeating No. 2 La Salle by 2-1 in the semifinals and beating No. 1 seed Germantown Academy, 4-3, in the final. Despite being the favorite this year, O’Hara has never won the Cup, but the Lions are led by goaltender Ryan Klingensmith and high-scoring for-wards Frank Cross and Mike Cauley. La Salle was expected by some to be in a rebuilding year, but it was able to grab the second seed in the AAA division. The Explorers are led by veteran forward John Williams and goalie Dan Pyne (1.89 goals-against average in AAA games). The Explorers, looking for their first Flyers Cup since 1998, also made trips to the finals in 2000, 2003, and 2004. Germantown Academy is looking for its first Flyers Cup since 1995 when it won a second straight title. The Patriots boast AAA leading scorer Brian O’Neill, who has nine goals and 16 assists. The Patriots have been back to the finals twice since they last won the Cup. In 2002, they lost to Malvern by 2-0, and again to the Prep last year, by 4-3, despite mounting a furious third-period comeback. Of the top four seeds, Malvern Prep has won eight titles, Germantown Academy has won four, and La Salle two. The final will be March 25 at 3 p.m. at the IceWorks rink in Aston. The game will be televised live on CN8.

AA preview. Top seed Haverford High is led by the league’s top two scorers: Ian Finnerty (40 goals, 19 assists) and Chris Cam- pli (16 goals, 21 assists). The Fords’ big test will come in the quarterfinals against the winner of the Pennsbury-Hender- son game. West Chester East’s hopes may rest on the tandem of goalies Sean Erb (2.33 GAA) and Bryan DeMarco (3.51 GAA). East is seeded second. Third-seeded Central Bucks South will rely on the offensive trio of Nick Safaiano (26 goals, 23 assists), Andrew Reuter (19 goals, 30 assists), and Scott Lawson (20 goals, 28 assists). Cherokee, the fourth seed, finished 20-0-2 in Tier I of the South Jersey league. Daniel Maugieri led the Chiefs with 26 goals and 21 assists. If Downingtown East defeats Washington Township in its first game, it could face Inter- County rival West Chester East in the quarterfinals. Ben Souders (16 goals, 15 assists) is the top scorer. West Chester Henderson, the ninth seed, is a dark horse with Inter-County League leading scorer Billy Latta (18 goals, 17 assists). The title game is 8 p.m. on March 24 at the Hatfield rink.

A preview. Springfield (Delco) is the No. 1 seed coming out of the Central Division. Only three points separated the top four teams. A key for Springfield may be its goalies. Mark Wertman had a stellar 1.74 GAA and a .913 save percentage; Chris McCullough posted a 2.00 GAA and a .880 percentage. Hershey should be a real threat, and its first real challenge may not be until the semi-finals, where it could meet Penncrest. Leading the offense for de-fending champion Penncrest are Nick Kusturiss (14 goals, 20 assists), Dave Bixler (21 goals, 9 assists), and Mike Maser (10 goals, 7 assists). In the net is Ryan Mclhenney (1.90 GAA, .908 save percentage). Haverford School went 13-1-4 and was led by Matt Fried’s 15 goals and 21 assists. One of Garnet Valley’s strengths is goaltender Steve Clark, who posted a 2.33 GAA and 888 save percentage. The championship game is at noon on March 25 at IceWorks.

Compiled by The Inquirer Staff