Opening round games are crucial in any championship playoff. Lose and you go home. Win and you gain momentum.
The Council Rock South ice hockey team exploded in their first game of the Suburban High School Hockey League Division AA playoffs by downing Pennridge, 8-1. The victory sparked follow-up wins over North Penn and Central Bucks South to earn the Golden Hawks a league championship.
During the regular season South recorded an impressive 11-4 overall record and took first place in the National Division, one game ahead of Neshaminy. Their only loses were close, non-division games against North Penn and Central Bucks South. In that span they outscored their opponents by a 105-31 margin and scored nine or more goals in seven of those contests.
Mike Roby, a junior at Council Rock South, has spearheaded the Golden Hawk offensive attack. Though only his first year with South, Mike brings plenty of experience to the Hawk lineup. He started skating when he was two and joined the Warwick Wildcats at age four. Since then he has played for the Tomcats, The New Jersey Colonials under-14 squad and the Virtual under-16 team.
This year Mike leads all Golden Hawk scorers with 30 goals, 14 more than the second main contributor, Antii Autere, who has 16 goals. Mike also added 18 assists to the Hawk cause, giving him a total of 48 points.
Mike’s ability to find the back of the enemy net stems from natural talent and lot of hard work. “The toughest part to pickup was the skating and the stickwork," he said. "Once you get it down you keep building off it. I took skating lessons, did extra workouts, and went to camps.”
That scoring ability was most evident in South’s opening round win against Pennridge. Mike and his teammates knew that the Rams presented a formidable challenge. “We knew they were a good team and would give us a good fight because it was a playoff game," he said. "We wanted to keep it in our offensive zone and get shots on the goal.”
Mike started the scoring barrage when he tallied the first Hawk goal with just 5:10 off the game clock. “The puck came off the wall. I kept battling through it and shot it. I looked up and it was in the net.”
He then tallied the third South goal with 4:31 gone in the second period. “It was a chip off the board by Antii (Autere). It went behind the defense on a 2-on-1. I shot it and it went in. It was a good feeling also.”
Matthew Constantini, Julian Wagenmann and Antii Autere added scores to the Hawk relentless assault. Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Brennen Wright, the 290-pound South defender. Wright, who also plays line for the football team, scored two of his hat trick goals on power plays.
The offensive outpouring amply supported Mike’s team assessment. He feels South presents a balanced look. “I think our offense is the strongest part of the team. When we play teams, we usually score a lot. It’s in their zone a lot. We get a lot of shots on goal. We also have a good defense. Jimmy Sweeney is a great goalie.”
Mike offered an honest appraisal of the Pennridge game action. “We wanted to play hard and outwork the other team. I think we did that. Sometimes we took penalties, including myself, and we knew we had to stay out of the penalty box.”
Overall, the 8-1 victory gave the Golden Hawks momentum and self-confidence. “We were really excited after the game because we were moving on to play North Penn. It was a great feeling in the locker room. We got the music going.”
In the semi-final game, the Golden Hawks would face a North Penn team that had beaten them twice in the regular season by scores of 3-2 and 6-5. They knew it would be a tough game. “They have a solid team. Their goalie is a little weaker so we have to get shots and crash the net. We have to stay out of the penalty box because they have a good power play. We just have to outwork them.”
The strategy paid off as the Hawks upset North Penn 4-2 to move to the Championship game against Central Bucks South. Bill Harrelson, David Vergules, Antii Autere and Mike Roby all scored for South. Both of North Penn’s goals came on late power plays.
The early tourney momentum paid dividends come the championship showdown. The Hawks opponent, Central Bucks South had won 16 straight games after suffering a season opening loss 2-1 to La Salle College. The Titans claimed victory in both of their two regular season against the Hawks by 2-1 and 6-3 margins.
History, however, would not repeat itself. The Golden Hawks scored three straight unanswered goals, one by Antii Autere and two by Jeremy Purcell. Jimmy Sweeney would prove virtually unbeatable stopping 29 of 30 shots on goal.
The 3-1 revenge victory gave Council Rock the first of its early season goals. According to Mike, “We wanted to win the championship and then move to the Flyers Cup and hopefully win that”
Their opening game momentum might help the Golden Hawks reach their second objective. They are definitely on a positive roll.