Photo of the injuries suffered by CB West hockey player Shawn Phillips during an the incident that occurred in the 3rd period of his game against Ridley high school Mar 9, 2017. He suffered a broken nose, eye socket and suffered a concussion. Courtesy of Susan Philipps
NORRISTOWN — Saying they “disrespected the game of hockey,” a judge sentenced two ex-Ridley Raiders hockey players to probation and community service after a Montgomery County jury convicted them of assaulting CB West players during a playoff game at a Hatfield ice rink.
Brock Anderson, 19, of the 500 block of Ridley Circle, Morton, and Jake Tyler Cross, 20, of the 900 block of Greenhouse Lane, Secane, remained stone-faced and didn’t react when a jury convicted each of them of misdemeanor charges of simple assault and conspiracy to commit simple assault in connection with their conduct during a 10:19 p.m. March 9, 2017, on-ice incident at Hatfield Ice on County Line Road in Hatfield during the Eastern Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey Association Regional High School “Flyers Cup” Class 2A quarterfinal game between Ridley and CB West.
Judge Richard P. Haaz immediately sentenced each man to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service.
“You disrespected the game of hockey and all of those coaches you had over the years who, presumably over the years, tried to teach you good sportsmanship,” Haaz addressed the young men as he imposed the sentence. “There is a line between genuine athletic competition and unlawful conduct. The jury drew that line in this case and found your conduct to be unlawful.
“One of your defenses in this case was that sucker-punching an opponent is an acceptable and foreseeable risk of playing ice hockey. The jury rejected this defense,” Haaz added.
Anderson and Cross, who did not address the judge or the victims before learning their fates, left the courthouse with relatives and one of their lawyers, Mark Phillip Much, without commenting about the verdict.
The jurors, who deliberated nearly 11 hours over two days, was deadlocked on a simple assault charge filed against a third Ridley player, Ryan Anthony Gricco, 19, of the 1500 block of Blackrock Road, Swarthmore, and acquitted Gricco of the conspiracy charge. Prosecutors have not determined if they will retry Gricco on the simple assault charge.
Gricco left the courtroom with his relatives and lawyer, Michael J. Malloy, and didn’t stick around to see the judicial penalties handed to his teammates.
Assistant District Attorney John N. Gradel said the jury was “diligent and listened to all the evidence.”
Anderson, Cross and Gricco did not testify during the trial.
At trial, Gradel argued Anderson, Cross and Gricco were part of a coordinated on-ice assault and conspired to attack the CB West players late in the third period, with about seven minutes left to play, when Ridley was losing 7-1 and facing elimination from the playoff tournament.
“It’s very much like a group of kids jumping somebody. This was not hockey. This was an attack that was premeditated…and it was vicious. The players from CB West didn’t see it coming and it was an absolute disgrace what those players did from Ridley,” Gradel said.
“What the Ridley players did is what cheap-shot artists do. They sucker-punch, they hit people who don’t know it’s coming and it’s cowardly is what it is,” Gradel added.
One CB West player testified that before one faceoff he heard a Ridley player say, “We’re coming.” Another player testified that with about 11 minutes remaining in the game Anderson told him, “you have four minutes left.” Prosecutors alleged the Ridley players began the assaults with 7 minutes and 12 seconds left to play.
Gradel argued Cross, during a stoppage of play, said something to each of his teammates and at the drop of the puck, the Ridley players immediately and simultaneously attacked the CB West players, punching them in the head and face, even when CB West players were forced down on the ice.
CB West player Brandon Savona testified Cross attacked him, punching him in the head about 10 times, including after he fell to the ice. Testimony revealed Savona subsequently sought medical attention and was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion.
Joseph Anton, another CB West player, testified he was playing center when a Ridley player he identified as Anderson attacked him and repeatedly struck him in the head and neck area and beat him down onto the ice. In court papers filed by Hatfield Detective Richard F. Hoffner authorities alleged Anderson had to be restrained by a referee.
Prosecutors alleged another CB West player, Shawn Philipps, suffered a broken nose, broken orbital and facial lacerations during an alleged assault by Gricco. Jurors viewed graphic photographs of Philipps’ injuries during the trial.
Philipps testified he didn’t want to fight, but defense lawyers challenged his testimony, implying to jurors he was aggressive toward Gricco during the game and they claimed Philipps gave inconsistent testimony that was not reliable.
On Friday, after about six hours of deliberations, jurors asked to view again the videotape footage of the on-ice encounter between Gricco and Philipps. Jurors also asked to re-hear Philipps’ testimony, which was read back to them by a court stenographer.
After re-viewing the footage of the on-ice skirmishes and listening again to Philipps’ testimony, the jurors indicated they were deadlocked on the simple assault charge against Gricco.
During the trial, several of the CB West players testified they didn’t fight back because they feared they would be suspended from their next game, the semi-final game of the tournament.
Prosecutors said for CB West, at the time the top seed in the tournament, the injuries inflicted by Ridley players prevented two CB West players from participating in their next game against William Tennent. CB West was eliminated from the 2017 “Flyers Cup” Championship during that next game.
Prosecution witnesses testified the Ridley players’ alleged actions were not acceptable youth hockey conduct.
But defense lawyers Much, Malloy and Lindsay McDonald, who represented Cross, challenged the alleged victims’ claims they didn’t want to fight, suggesting nothing prevented them from leaving the ice and going to their bench.
McDonald suggested to the jury that fighting is a natural part of hockey and that the CB West players also were aggressive during the highly emotional elimination playoff game.
The lawyers argued “a hockey fight is not a crime,” that the defendants didn’t intend to injure the CB West players and that prosecutors were trying to “criminalize” a hockey fight. Defense lawyers argued the game was “chippy, physical and emotional,” and involved a lot of “trash talk” and resulted in numerous penalties for both teams.
The defense lawyers stressed the Ridley players did not strike the CB West players with hockey sticks or kick them with skates nor tried to take masks off the players.
Defense lawyers also implied the conduct and injuries are reasonable, foreseeable hazards of participating in a lawful sporting event and therefore, the Ridley players should not be held criminally responsible.
Prosecutors argued the single elimination tournament’s design and zero tolerance policy on intimidation or fighting are significant in the case because late in the game and down 7-1, Ridley had no real chance of winning and advancing. Ridley’s season was all but over and for the seniors at Ridley it was their final game and an ejection and suspension from play for fighting would have no effect on them, prosecutors implied.Origin of story found here