WEST GOSHEN — There is great goaltending and then there’s jaw-dropping goaltending.
Everyone already knew Malvern Prep’s Matthew Hollingshead was a great goalie, but the junior not only made the saves he had to make in a 3-1 win over St. Joseph’s Prep, he also made the saves he had no business making Friday night at Ice Line.
“He was sensational,” said head coach Dave Dorman. “The one leg-pad save that he made when it was probably the fifth consecutive save in a row during a flurry was one of the greatest saves I’ve ever seen coaching behind the bench. It was just simply awesome.”
That save came just over halfway through the game when neither team was able to get the puck past either goaltender.
Hollingshead already found himself down on his back, continuing to make saves as St. Joe’s players surrounded the net, but then the goaltender was on his side leaving a half the net wide open with John McTiernan camped out in front of that open space.
When the puck came over to McTiernan and he threw the puck toward the net, Hollingshead’s pad came out of nowhere to kick the puck away.
It was the kind of save people would remember for a long time.
“It’s all instinct,” Hollingshead said. “I don’t really mean to do it – it just happens. I guess that’s it. Sometimes it just works out.”
The game itself, aside from Hollingshead’s stellar play, had a postseason-type atmosphere to it as both teams desperately wanted the two points in its last game of the regular season, especially after the only other meeting between the two ended it a 0-0 tie back in December.
“Both teams are gearing up for the playoffs and everyone is trying to make sure we round out our game,” Dorman said. “A little bit of it was a carryover from our 0-0 tie with them. There’s a great rivalry between these two schools, but I think this was almost the rubber match after that tie. It speaks to the level of play. Kids are playing honest hockey. There was a little bit extra on the line today.”
For a time, it seemed as though this second match-up between the prep teams would end the same way as through two periods, no one was able to crack either Hollingshead or St. Joe’s (8-7-3) goalie Shawn Joniec.
“That was going through my mind as we were wrapping up the second period,” Dorman said. “It was a one-period hockey game. It was who was going to win that third period and our guys did a great job sticking together. They were positive on the bench whether the guys were playing a ton or playing a little. Everyone pulled the rope.”
Not to be overshadowed by Hollingshead’s 37-save performance was senior Joey Abel, who scored all three goals for Malvern (9-8-2), including the empty-netter that ended St. Joe’s push to tie the game.
“Joey did a good job holding guys accountable and self-policing,” Dorman said. “He was picking the guys up who needed to be picked up.”
Dorman was more than happy with the way his team played, even through the minor slump in the second when the ice shifted a bit in St. Joe’s direction.
He especially appreciated the work put in at the end by the players, both upper and underclassmen.
“Gabe Malek blocked a shot there at the end – a freshman,” Dorman said. “We asked them to play with some courage and block shots and be willing to sacrifice your body. That’s not an easy thing to do. Every time you go down to block a shot, you’re risking injury. (Malek) came back to the bench and said ‘For the boys.’ That sums up this team.”
Now, with the regular season over, Malvern will sit back and wait for selection into the Flyers Cup, which comes on Sunday, and prepare for the tournament as other hockey teams in the area compete in their respective conference playoffs.
The big win for the Friars will help the team carry momentum they can use going forward into the postseason tournament.
“Any time you can carry some positive energy and positive momentum going into the playoffs is a gift,” Dorman said. “If you could bottle that and hold onto it and keep practice high-tempo and positive, you’re in a good spot.”