The stage is set for the top two seeds to square off in Friday night’s (Feb. 23) Delaware High School Hockey League (DHSHL) championship game, as No. 2 Appoquinimink and No. 1 Newark/Tatnall proved victorious in their respective semifinal matches on Wednesday (Feb. 21) at the Patriot Ice Center in Newark, Del.
(2) Appoquinimink 4, (3) Middletown 3
The Appoquinimink Jaguars (13-2-1) bounced back from a 2-2 to defeat crosstown rival Middletown (11-4-0) 4-3, holding off a late flurry of chances from the Cavaliers to secure victory. After a pair of second-minute goals from Jonny Schwarz and Jared Brenner, the Jaguars gave up a pair late in the second period. Nicky Bouchard opened the scoring for Middletown with a second-chance goal at 9:58, finishing a Chris Rutkoski chance from the left point on the power play after the puck rebounded off the pads of Appo goalie Dylan Hadley. Forty-two seconds later, Kaden Boots tied the game at 2-2 for Middletown, redirecting a centring pass to the front of the goal mouth from Carson Moore past Hadley.
With twelve seconds left in the first period, Campbell Garrison put the Jaguars back in front, advancing up the right boards before crossing into the low slot with a five-hole backhand goal to increase his seasonal total to 20. Appo re-extended their lead to two goals five minutes into the second, when Paul Army stole the puck on its way out of the Middletown zone and converted a top-shelf beauty from the top of the left circle.
Down 4-2 through 32 minutes, the Cavaliers pulled out all the stops in the third period, but their strongest efforts ultimately proved fruitless. A Bouchard power-play goal at 2:55 brought his seasonal total to 16 and Middletown within one, but further chances—including the last 74 seconds of the game with an extra attacker—were thwarted and countered well by a solid Appoquinimink backcheck and transition game, although they were held scoreless in the third period.
Both teams registered 25 shots on goal. Middletown were 2-for-3 on the power play, while Appoquinimink failed to convert on two man-advantage situations.
(1) Newark/Tatnall 5, (4) Hodgson/Caravel 0
Five different players scored goals for the Newark/Tatnall Yellow Hornets (12-1-1) in a physical 5-0 triumph over the Hodgson/Caravel Silver Bucs (10-5-0). After the Bucs controlled the puck and the Hornets’ zone for the first half of the first period, Gabe Jensen opened the scoring for Newark/Tatnall 13:14 into the first with an easy—yet controversial—goal. With Silver Bucs goalie Austin Himelberger sprawled on his stomach after saving a Jason Roux chance, Jensen walked a loose puck into an open net. It was ruled that interference did not take place against Himelberger, thus allowing the lone goal in the first period to stand.
Late in the second period, Scott Phillips and Roux displayed strong sniping ability, beating Himelberger from the right point and the mid-slot respectively. Roux nearly increased Newark/Tatnall’s lead to 4-0 in the second minute of the third period, but his breakaway chance from directly in front of the crease was deflected into the air by a Himelberger stick save. Pen Sailer came up with the Hornets’ fourth goal at the 3:36 mark, redirecting the puck into the net off a centring pass from Lain Singer, who was posted below the goal. Luke Headman added the fifth and final goal for Newark/Tatnall at 8:50 in the final period with a hard bar-down wrist shot from mid-slot.
Ty Hutchinson earned a 27-save shutout to propel Newark/Tatnall to the DHSHL championship game. Himelberger registered 27 saves on 32 shots in defeat. Of a combined 20 penalty minutes issued in the game, 16 came by way of offsetting minors. Both teams were 0-for-1 with a man advantage.
Newark/Tatnall and Appoquinimink are scheduled to square off for the DHSHL title on Friday evening at the Fred Rust Arena in Newark, Del. Air time on Delaware Hockey Night Radio is slated for 6:00 p.m.