ASTON Kain Walker doesn’t need reminders about the difference a year can make.
A year ago, Penncrest hockey went scoreless in 18 outings. His opponents surpassed them with 71 goals.
But 2020 was clearly in last Monday night at IceWorks, when Walker and Lions’ current crop not only showed their massive collective growth, but also deserved some pretty good pay for all that toil.
We went from not winning a game to winning the Flyers Cup, Walker said, so I said it’s some pretty big growth.
Walker took five points in a great offensive performance when eight-seeded Penncrest No. 9 eliminated Plymouth Whitemarsh 5-1 in the Flyers Cup Class A opener.
Penncrests reward is a date with the best-placed West Chester East on Thursday.
The difference for every team compared to last year is monstrous. Plymouth Whitemarsh was 18-1, won the Suburban High School Hockey League title, beating opponents by a margin of 180-60. A young Penncrest team went 0-16-1-1. But in that pain was growth that has blossomed this year.
The anchor was goalkeeper Gannon Walker, who was excellent at the net with 22 saves. He owes a lot to his defense, led by Shane Kokoska and Colin Curran, who forced the Colonials into a slew of outside shots with little net-mouth traffic.
For a goalkeeper as solid as Walker, it will not often happen to beat him from that range.
Our D did well, he said. I took a few pictures, but they weren’t too harsh. My D kept it out well.
That platform allowed the Lions to attack. Van Evans opened the score 75 seconds in, Kain Walker did the hard work circling behind the net to find Evans open in front of the door. Ryan Anderson made it 2-0 late in the period after stealing a pass into the zone and giving Walker a shot that sent Anderson off the rebound into the net.
Plymouth Whitemarsh almost sneaked back into the game when Conlan Carpenter cleared a rebound in front of the net at 12:46 of the second period to cut the lead in half. But Walker scored 13 seconds in a power play with 42 ticks left in the second, Tyler Conns back-hander off the post and Walker first to the rebound to poke him over the goal line.
Kain Walker’s five points means he has 23 points in the year, convincing Conn for the team leader. Their excellent chemistry is what keeps the lions going.
We practice together and we play hard together, and it works, said Kain Walker.
That the lions are built around the Walker sibling axis is a major reason for the growth. It is a ready combination, the sophomore Kain can hone his skills by firing at the senior Gannon and vice versa. Gannon said the rivalry in training can get a little heated at times, but it was a pleasure to see how he developed this season.
It’s good to see him making progress as a player throughout his high school career, said Gannon Walker. I am excited to see where he goes in the years to come.
Kain Walker put Conn on a 3-to-1 for a 1:19 goal in the third to effectively freeze it, then gave Shane Kokoska a point drive that made its way into the net to set the final margin. Plymouth Whitemarsh goalkeeper Kolton Galie made 20 saves in goal.
Gannon Walkers’ best save out of 22 was Matthew Flynn on a 2-on-0 cram in the second period when the game was 2-0.
Those are the kind of moments the Lions didn’t have last year, and growing into a team that they can create this year is a significant achievement.
It’s a huge difference, said Gannon Walker. We worked hard this year and new guys came in, they work hard and it all makes a big difference. We thought that sometimes and we knew we would have them developed. They’ve evolved, we’ve come a long way, and we’ve won our Flyers Cup competition.