PA Update: Conestoga Downs Strath Haven 17-9

(Photo: Matt Chandik)
(Photo: Matt Chandik)

It’s been a while since Tate Kienzle lived behind the restraining line.

The Conestoga senior and Gettysburg commit has been a midfielder by trade since the end of seventh grade, and it’s all he’s known since he’s come in to high school. He’s good at it, too, using his speed, agility, scrappiness and underrated offensive game to blossom into one of the Pioneers’ top midfielders in the past couple years.

Thanks to the graduation of big-time scorers like Tommy Sopko (Bucknell) and Henry Berg (Mount St. Mary’s) and a rigorous nonleague schedule, Conestoga found its offense struggling a little bit in the early going. Finally, after an overtime loss to Ridge (N.J.), Conestoga coach Brody Bush made a move by bumping Kienzle to attack, where he joined Will Schnorr and Kent Hjelm.

It’s paying major dividends for the Pioneers. They’ve won four straight games, the latest a 17-9 bludgeoning of Strath Haven on Tuesday night, and they’ve averaged 14.8 goals per game since Kienzle hasn’t had to run the entire field anymore. He was unstoppable Tuesday, burning the previously undefeated Panthers for two goals and three assists.

“I’m getting used to it,” Kienzle said with a smile. “It’s a different game because I have to have my head up a lot more because when I’m dodging downhill in the midfield, it’s easier to see everything. It’s an adjustment, but I like it.”

“In the beginning of the season, we hadn’t put in a lot of plays, but as time developed, we’ve been able to put in more plays, develop and mesh as a team,” Kienzle added. “We’re deep all over the field and we can run with anyone on offense.”

Kienzle showed against Strath Haven that he’s also a weapon with time and space when he cranked a high heater off of a James Reilly pass on a fast break. He also showed that he still has his midfield vision, twice dropping off easy passes for Hjelm to bury.

Five Who Stood Out

Will Brake, Goalie, Strath Haven, 2018 - William & Mary

The former Dartmouth commit lost his starting job prior to last year’s postseason, but he and Vincey Palermo are now splitting the load. Brake looked sharp in the first half against the Pioneers, stopping 10 shots. When he got scored on, it was usually an almost impossible shot to stop. Brake looks much more comfortable in the cage this year and he’s a little more athletic. A big lefty, Brake has improved his positioning and footwork, and he’s a solid communicator.

Jeff Conner, Midfield, Strath Haven, 2018 - Virginia

Strath Haven’s heart and soul was his usual ridiculously productive self yet again. He bagged five goals and set up Ibo Pio for three more, and it should have been more. Conner made a handful of great passes on the doorstep that were flat-out dropped. He possesses outstanding vision from anywhere on the field, though he does his best work dodging from up top. Conner was also more than adequate defensively and very good in the clearing game. On one play, he rolled out of a triple team and hammered home a shot for a goal that just made everyone shake their heads in amazement. Recently named to the Under Armour All-America Game, Conner hasn’t had less than four points in a game all year. He’s a total package in terms of athleticism, shooting, passing and transition.

Nick Cost, Midfield, Conestoga, 2018 - Elizabethtown

Quick and shifty, Cost sort of flies under the radar but has all the makings of a solid Division III midfielder. He’s smart and disciplined, and he does a good job of playing within the system. You won’t see him try to extend his shooting range past what he knows it is, and he’s pretty comfortable inverting, too. Cost isn’t overly big, but he’s tough, scrappy and dependable with change-of-direction for days. He’s also dangerous on his rollback shots.

Scott MacMillan, Goalie, Conestoga, 2018 - Gettysburg

You could make the case - I have many times - that MacMillan is the best goalie in Philly, and that Gettysburg has an absolute steal on its hands. MacMillan is a step ahead of everyone mentally, and he’s quick and agile enough to make just about any save. A solid athlete - he was an important player in Conestoga hockey’s run to a Central League title this winter - MacMillan is almost impossible to beat low and he makes terrific decisions and passes in the clearing game. He’s been starting for the Pioneers since his sophomore year, too, so he’s got experience for days.

James Reiilly, FO/Midfield, Conestoga, 2018 - Georgetown

Even if he didn’t take a single faceoff, Reilly would be Conestoga’s best midfielder. Couple his midfield talent with his dominance at the X, though, and you’ve got a special player. Reilly went 20-for-26 at the dot against the Panthers, and he set up a Tate Kienzle goal on a fast break. Less than two minutes later, he won it forward and hammered home a high-to-high shot. He’s not as big as his brother Jack, a Virginia defenseman, but he’s got a powerful frame that allows him to overpower his opponents. He’s also got quick hands and he’s fluid when he runs, which makes him a matchup nightmare.