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Mounts to battle top-seeded Township in semifinals
TODD RUTH Review Sports Editor email@example.com
, Staff Writer
Just 13 days ago, Ephrata suffered its worst loss of the season at the hands of Manheim Township, who pummeled the Mounts on their home turf by a score of 18-5.
Wednesday night at Hempfield (7:30 p.m.), the two teams meet again, this time with an L-L Finals berth on the line. In the first game, host Hempfield (13-5) will square off against Penn Manor (14-4) at 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday’s winners will meet either Friday or Saturday at Warwick in the L-L Finals. If Hempfield defeats Penn Manor, it will be Friday at 5 p.m., and if Penn Manor prevails, then the finals will move to Saturday at 10 a.m.
The biggest question for defending champion Ephrata (12-6), which knocked off the Blue Streaks, 8-5 in last year’s title game, is what did the Mounts learn last time that they can take into Wednesday’s L-L semifinal game and make for a better showing?
"One, the guys were able to see the level of play we need to play at in order to compete with them," Ephrata Coach Kevin Pletz said Tuesday. "Two, we kind of knew going in what they were looking to do, and it was confirmed in the game so we were able to see it so that when we implemented things in practice it was easier to explain what we were trying to do now that they were exposed to it. Those were the two things biggest things we gathered from our loss."
Another positive from their last meeting was the fact that despite trailing 15-1 at the half, the Mounts actually righted the ship and outscored the Streaks, 4-3 in the second half.
"Going into half-time of that game I would say the game was out of reach," Pletz pointed out. "I basically said, ‘let’s start all over, forget about the first half and make the second half count.’ I said, ‘the last thing I want to see is you guys dropping your heads and throwing in the towel.’ And beating them 4-3 in the second half showed that they can compete with them and play with them. And if we are playing up to our level, anything is possible."
Ephrata certainly has the potential to keep up with the Streaks offensively. The Mounts have six players in double figures in goals, led by Justin Hoover’s 48. Scott Gordon is next with 30 tallies while Koty Keefer has 26 goals and 52 assists on the year.
In net, first-year starter Justin Mease has made 164 saves on the year while allowing 141 goals.
Defensively, the Mounts will need to clean some things up from the last game, particularly making sure they get back. In that game, Ephrata was burned time and again by Township fast breaks.
"The three things that we are focusing on is breaking down their fastbreaks," Pletz said. "I think they scored at least 12 of their 18 goals on fastbreaks. We also need to reduce our turnovers. When we turn the ball over a lot, we are not winning a lot of games. And we need to flip the coin on them to the point where we are starting to score on fastbreaks. We really focused the last few days on fastbreak goals in our favor. It’s something we lacked all season but it’s something we need to really focus on and do in this post-season to be successful."
Last Thursday, Ephrata suffered a key 7-5 loss on the road at Penn Manor in the regular-season finale. The host Comets broke a 4-4 tie in the fourth quarter, out-scoring the Mounts 3-1 to earn the victory.
Gordon and Chris Husson each scored a pair of goals for the Mounts, while Hoover added the fifth Ephrata tally. Keefer chipped in with a pair of assists for the Mounts, who were out-shot 11-9.
Mease registered four saves in the Ephrata net.
In addition to Thursday’s game, Ephrata captured a 13-7 victory over visiting Cocalico in the final home game of the season last Wednesday.
Hoover and Gordon both scored four goals each to pace the Mounts, who pulled away with eight goals in the second half.
Keefer (four assists), Colin Cammauf and Josh Buohl all added tallies for Ephrata.
Tom Koller led the Eagles with a pair of goals, while Dalton Delpiano, Dylan Delpiano, Justin Marderness and Aaron Longstaff also found the net for Cocalico.
Mease collected nine saves while Dan Bucolo had 10 in net for Cocalico.
The Eagles also were in action last Thursday at Hempfield where the host Black Knights scored a 17-1 victory over Cocalico in the regular-season finale.
Dalton Delpiano scored the lone goal of the game for the Eagles, who were out-shot 28-1.
More SEMIFINALS, page B-4