Kneeling (L-R) Chris Carlton, Danny Morris, Denny Brunetta, Jeff Fondl, Mike Bernacki, Keith Coon.
Standing (L-R) Coach Al Reinshagen, Lenny Hohenfeld, Gerry Solon, Ed Ghilian, Ken Glinka, Dave Donatelli, Tom Ruane, Joe Doerr, Ron Kroll, Dennis Kadlubek, Vince Kadlubek.
1972 – 1973
“Taking It to the Limit”
The 1972-1973 regular season was not a particularly strong one for the Polar Bearcats, except for one memorable game that became the crowning achievement for that team, even though it ended in a loss. The start of the campaign seemed to be promising. Andy Labrasca decided to return for one more year. There was a strong nucleus of returning players. The incoming class of freshman was one of the strongest groups yet to come to SVC and included the likes of Dave Vance, Dan Morris, Ed Ghilian, Dave Donatelli, Joe Doerr, and an experienced goaltender, Ken Glinka.
In the opening game, a loss to Duquesne, Doug Mielke received a broken jaw. “Lumpy” Labrasca was literally skated over by Duquesne star C.H. Bender causing a bench-clearing brawl. Dan Morris scored his first collegiate goal against Pitt, but the Polar Bearcats could not out muscle a deep University of Pittsburgh squad. Hohenfeld and Bernacki starred in a in a tie against CMU, and Hohenfeld had a hat trick in a losing effort against IUP in a furious 3’rd period comeback attempt. With another one goal loss to Penn State McKeesport and a second drubbing by Pitt, SVC dropped to 0-5-1 and the chance for a playoff spot looked dim. But then the team began to rally.
A 6-2 loss to Duquesne was sandwiched by two wins against WVU 2-1 and 10-8 and two victories over Slippery Rock A split with St. Francis included a 8-2 victory and a 4-3 defeat. Finally the year ended with a loss to Penn State McKeesport 4-3. The team had ended with a 5-8-1 mark and captured 2’nd place in their division by one point and had a date with a powerful University of Pittsburgh team in the playoffs.
Traveling to Swissvale, the Saint Vincent College players piled into the Alpine Ice Chalet. Pitt, who had beaten St. Vincent twice during the regular season, expected the game to be a formality on their way to the championship of the WPIHA. After all, they had finished the campaign with a perfect 14-0-0 mark and St. Vincent had barely made it to the playoffs. But it seems as if someone forgot to tell this to the St. Vincent team and to starting goaltender, Andy Labrasca.
Pitt opened the scoring early in the first period and it looked as though the experts would be right. Now at the time, Red Kelly had been recently dismissed as the head coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins and had been working with the Pitt team for a number of weeks. Word got back to Lumpy that he was supposed to be on the bench for Pitt. Somehow, this inspired Labrasca to a repeat performance of a spectacular 60 save performance against Gannon College a year earlier. Acting like a baseball catcher blocking the plate on a play from 3’rd base, Labrasca took away the lower part of the net and continually frustrated the Panthers with his amazing glove saves. Several times the Pitt team raised their sticks thinking they had scored only to find that Lumpy had the puck safely corralled in his glove. Then, with one fortunate bounce, Chris Carlton picked up a loose puck at center ice and skated unopposed at the Pitt goalie. Amazingly, after being out shot 19-5, the 1’st period ended in a 1-1 tie. Chris had converted on the breakaway.
The second period was even more intense than the first. In an attempt to keep the net clear for Labrasca, St. Vincent hammered the Pitt players and on several occasions took penalties. In spite of the Pitt power plays, St. Vincent road Labrasca’s back to a scoreless frame. At the end of two periods of play, the score stood at 1-1 with Pitt holding a 41-10 shot advantage.
By keeping the game close, the spirit of the St. Vincent players remained high. Only one goal was needed to win the game and the men in the black and gold sweaters had the legs to go 15 more minutes. Pitt scored the first goal of the period, but in spite of collecting 20 shots in the 3’rd period, they were unable to score a decisive 3’rd goal. With a little over 3 minutes to go in the game, Lenny Hohenfeld swung a pass to Dan Morris. Dan spotted Joe Doerr and the SVC defenseman ripped the back of the net for a 2-2 tie. The buzzer sounded. Overtime!
Early in the extra period, St. Vincent worked the puck deep into the Panther zone. On a quick centering pass, the puck was fed to Denny Brunetta in the high slot. Denny let go a hard slap shot that was headed to the upper corner of the net. The Pitt goalie was beaten, but the puck ricocheted the butt end of his stick. St. Vincent had come within a fraction of an inch of a most improbable upset..
Unfortunately, not long after the play, St. Vincent was assessed another penalty and the awesome Pitt power play was ready to finish the game. Labrasca stopped the first four shots of the man advantage. Then one of the Pitt point men dumped the puck behind the net to forward who was immediately smashed by SVC defenseman Vince Kadlubek. The puck squirted to another Panther who tried to tuck it behind Labrasca. As Lumpy attempted to charge the player and take away his shooting angle, the goal cage as a result of the hit on the Pitt player by Kadlubek became dislodged. The puck was missing in action. For several seconds the referees and players scanned the ice for the black disk. Finally referee Paul Kennedy signaled a goal. The puck was under the bottom of the goal frame that had popped off the ice during the play. In spite of fierce arguments to nullify the goal due to the goal net becoming dislodged, Kennedy called the play in favor of Pitt.
So ended the 1972-1973 season. A season where one game dominated the history of the team. A season that was successful as a result of the combination of veterans and a group of talented freshman. It was the last year of play for Doug Mielke, Dennis Kadlubek, Ron Steffanacci, and of course, the incomparable Andy “Lumpy” Labrasca.