Being the favorite on paper means nothing.
Converting that hype to the field means everything.
Ephrata did just that with a dominating 13-4 win over Hempfield Friday afternoon. The Mountaineers, the preseason favorite to win the L-L League, improved to 3-0 in the league and 4-0 overall while the Black Knights fell to 2-1, 3-1.
"It kind of relieves the pressure," admitted Ephrata goalie Brian Neff, who stopped 16 shots. "But we've been talking about never letting up in any games. We just need to keep playing like this."
The Mounts wasted no time proving themselves with a 4-0 first quarter lead. Two scores from Joey Sellers sandwiched a pair of Tucker Keefer goals before the duo scored on consecutive shots to start the second quarter.
"We slid to the wrong spots and they beat us," Hempfield coach Dave Ondrusek explained. "They took advantage of an inexperience defense."
The Knights finally got on the board late in the second quarter with goals from Matt Senft and C.J. Bosch. Ephrata countered with a goal by Keefer to lead 7-2 at halftime.
Ephrata dominated the third quarter with five unanswered goals to lead 12-2. Evan Hornberger started the onslaught, off of a feed from Justin Hoover, before Keefer netted his fifth goal, Mason Quickel scored back-to-back and Dakota Keefer ripped a shot from 15 yards out.
"It's nice when everyone on offense can put points on the board," Ephrata coach Kevin Pletz said about his balanced attack. "We can put eight guys out there and be pleased with their output."
Nick Valentino scored twice to start the fourth for Hempfield before Hornberger scored the last goal of the game for Ephrata.
"We have a tough schedule this week with five games in seven days," Ondrusek said. "If we're going to get exposed this was a good time so we can fix it."
The Knights did outperform Ephrata at the faceoff X. Hempfield won 15 of 20 faceoffs but failed to convert on many of those offensive possessions.
"They have a great faceoff guy in (Andrew) Meier so we knew that would be tough," Pletz explained. "We made up for it because we did a good job of forcing turnovers on the ride and playing solid defense."
The Mounts' defense put up an iron wall around Neff but the Knights, who averaged 13 goals a game coming into the game, did manage 20 shots on goal. All but four of those shots had Neff in the way.
"I'm sure it was frustrating for our guys," Ondrusek said of Neff's stellar play. "When you have a goalie like that you have to be accurate with your shots. We weren't."
Neff credits his defense for the performance.
"We prepared a lot on how we would slide our defense against them," he said. "Our defense did a nice job of forcing (Hempfield) to to shoot in the spots I wanted."