WEST CHESTER — It’s the most exciting time of the hockey year as the postseason is set to get underway Monday night.
All the conferences will begin their playoffs Monday, with the Central, Ches-Mont and Philadelphia Catholic League playing their semifinals Wednesday and championships Thursday. The South will have its championship on Wednesday.
After two dismal seasons that amounted to just six wins total, Conestoga turned things around in 2015-16 and compiled a 10-7-1 record overall and a 9-4-1 record in the Central conference to finish first in the North division. The Pioneers will face Garnet Valley, the fourth seed in the South, in the first round on Monday.
The only time the two teams met was in January and it ended in an 8-8 tie. At that time, however, Conestoga was without leading scorer Matt Cameron, who will hopefully return for the playoffs after missing the last three games of the regular season. Freshman goaltender Malcolm Roeder has stolen the starting spot away from junior Luke Turner and has been stellar as of late.
Outcome: Conestoga has struggled to keep a healthy lineup all season and losing Graham Carpenter for the playoffs with a broken wrist won’t help things. But if the Pioneers can keep the rest from injuries, they can make a run for the conference title. Probably the only teams which could pose a problem are Springfield and Ridley.
Bishop Shanahan started the season off promising, battling back in several games when it could have just given up. Things did level out for the Eagles though, and they lost the last eight games of the regular season and fell to second to last in the PCL, but they did secure the final spot for the playoffs.
Archbishop Ryan is the first opponent Bishop Shanahan will face in the first round on Monday. In the two meetings during the regular season, the teams tied 5-5 in early November, but Ryan blanked Shanahan, 9-0, about a month later.
Outcome: Newcomer Gera Poddubnyi is a lethal goal scorer, having tallied 32 times in just 12 games, but a team can’t just rely on one player. The next closest player in goals is Ryan Conners with just six. Chances aren’t good for Bishop Shanahan to make it out of the first round.
Both teams are in the newly-formed South conference where Avon Grove thrived, winning every conference game. Kennett, on the other hand went 3-3-2 in those games, but the two finished one and two in the conference.
Avon Grove will face Interboro in the semifinals on Monday — a game which should be easy for them to handle as the Red Devils just knocked them down in a 16-6 game Friday for the last game of the regular season.
Kennett will take on Sun Valley. The two split the regular season series as Kennett lost the first game, 5-2, but won the second time, 7-4.
Outcome: Avon Grove should have no problem reaching the championship game. Kennett can also reach the championship round, but only if the skaters play better defense than they have as of late, but even if they do move on, Avon Grove is going to be an extremely tough opponent to get by.
It’s going to be hard for anyone to knock off the big three at the top of the Ches-Mont — West Chester East, West Chester Rustin and Downingtown East — but if there’s any team which could do it, it would be Unionville.
Outcome: West Chester East will probably be the team to beat, but if Downingtown East also makes it to the championship game, East may face some troubles. D-East is the only team through the entire 2015-16 season to either beat or tie East. Don’t forget about Rustin, though, as the players will surely be hungry to complete a three-peat to defend their state title.