Hockey may not be looked at as an urban sport, but don’t tell that to Gavin Yeager, Eddie Kelly, Patrick Pooler or Patrick Kirlin. All four South Philly residents were part of the Tier Two 16U National District champion Delco Phantoms, who defeated the Haverford Hawks 3-2 in overtime on March 17. It was Yeager who got the game-winning assist on forward Ryan Kertis’s goal.
“It didn’t last long,” coach Rob MacInnis said of the overtime period. “Gavin won a faceoff and slinged it to his winger, and the winger was left alone in front of the goaltender and roofed it, so hats off to Gavin.”
The Phantoms went 17-5 during the regular season and were even crowned Regional Silver Stick champions at this year’s annual Silver Stick Tournament in Newmarket, Ontario, a Canadian suburb just outside of Toronto.
Yeager said he always knew the expectations for this year were “high.” MacInnis echoed that sentiment.
“We won the 16A American last year and we added four or five really good players this year, two of them being Eddie and Gavin, and we added a good goaltender,” he said. “I figured if we could all get along, we were going to have a pretty good year. Most of the team, we had 13 returning guys and we got five, six new guys, so it was a pretty good core going into it.”
Luckily, the guys on the team all got along. In fact, Yeager, Kelly and Kirlin all live in the same neighborhood near the Whitman Library at 2nd and Snyder. Right behind the library is a roller hockey rink they all frequent.
“Us three are probably around this park every day playing hockey,” said Kirlin. In true South Philly fashion, all the boys are Mummers as well. Yeager, Kelly and Kirlin all march with the Pirates. Pooler marches with Froggy Carr.
Before beating the Hawks in the district finals, the Phantoms beat the Junior Penguins 3-1 in the quarterfinals and the flu-ridden New Jersey Penguins 11-1 in the semifinals.
“I felt bad for them,” said MacInnis. “They were missing like four or five players. Maybe six.”
When asked about his favorite moments of the season – aside from winning the district championship – Kelly brought up a big mid-season win against Lancaster, in which the team trailed 5-1 going into the third period. The team recovered, scored four goals in the third period, and won the game in overtime.
“I think it’s pretty important that the whole team really played,” MacInnis said of the Phantoms’ performance over the course of the entire season. “I think everybody in the tournament, there’s no one who didn’t step up and play above themselves.”