There was no surprises and very little suspense on the opening night of the 2012 PIHL Penguin Cup high school hockey playoffs. All five higher seeds won at home with only one game going down to the wire. Here are the recaps from the games that dropped the puck on the chase for Penguins Cup gold.
A special thanks go out to Mark Schaas, Don Rebel, Greg Kuntz, Steve Nagler and Matt Vandriak for their help on these recaps.
PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS AAA FIRST ROUND:
Peters Township Indians 9 – Shaler Titans 3
The fifth seeded Indians trailed early to the 12th seeded Titans but scored the next six goals to cruise to the first round win at Southpointe on Monday night. Luke Lynch scored almost five minutes into the first period to put Shaler up 1-0 on a power play goal, but the Indians got goals from Taylor Cox and Cole Snyder to take a 2-1 lead after the first period. The back-breaker for Shaler came just 30 seconds into the second, Alex Debolt pushed home a rebound to make it 3-1, T.J. Skraitz scored with the man advantage just over two minutes later, Patrick Hannan scored on a giveaway and Trevor Recktenwald scored late to put the Indians up 6-1. Luke Vogel scored 11 seconds later to give the Titans some life going into intermission. Vogel made things interesting 4:32 into the final period, scoring his second goal of the game. But Recktenwald scored a short handed goal to end any Titans comeback, his second goal as well. Cox and Hannan both tallied their second goals of the post-season to take the Indians to 15-5-3 overall and to a quarterfinal matchup with Mount Lebanon on Thursday night at 7:10 at the Mount Lebanon Ice Arena. Brian Baker made 18 saves to get the win for the Indians, he led Class A in save percentage during the regular season. Recktenwald finished with a five point night, with three helpers. Hannan and Cox each had four points. Peters Township was 3 of 6 with the man advantage, the only down side was the Indians took 8 minor penalties. For Shaler, who finishes 6-15-2, Jacob Hetz was held to an assist. Hetz was the fifth leading scorer in Class AAA in the regular season. The Titans were 1 of 6 on the power play.
Bethel Park Black Hawks 7 – Erie McDowell Trojans 3
The red hot Hawks wasted very little time in taking control and jumping out on the visiting Trojans Monday night at the Bethel Park Bladerunners. Daniel Yost opened the scoring by sweeping a lose puck past McDowell goaltender Tyler Sutula only 28 seconds into the game. Nearly five minutes later, Brody Taylor scored to give Bethel Park a 2-0 lead. A minute later, BP went on the power play for the first time and Dale Reither wrsited a shot from the left faceoff circle past Sutula for a power play goal and a 3-0 Bethel Park lead. The Black Hawks scored two more goals in the first eight minutes of the second period with Yost scoring his goal goal on a deflection on an Austin Jameyson shot from the right point. Jacob Brown tallied on a shot from inside the left point that caught the inside of the post and went in. McDowell finally cracked the scoreboard late in the second period when Zachary Poe took a centering pass and slammed it past BP goalie Alex Blum. Dylan Jones took back the momentum for the Black Hawks with a power play goal just over three minutes into the third period. The two teams then combined for three goals in the final minute with Ryan Kusmira scoring for BP and Ryan Guzek and Daniel Miller scoring for EM to conclude the scoring. The Black Hawks badly outshot the Trojans 43-11 as Taylor and Jones each ended up with a goal and two assists while Yost had two goals for BP. McDowell finishes the season losing 9 of 11 games and ending up 7-16-0. Bethel Park has now won twelve straight to improve to 15-7-1 and will battle North Allegheny Thursday in a Class AAA Quarterfinals game on MSA Sports.
PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS AA FIRST ROUND:
Plum Mustangs 4 – North Hills Indians 3
Coming into the PIHL Class AA playoffs, the Plum Mustangs qualified as the 7th seed with an 11-10 record and the 3-team coming out of Section 4. It was a tough season overall for the North Hills Indians as they lost their first 9 games of the season after not even having a team the previous year. Nevertheless, they persevered and qualified for the postseason with a 6-15 record, winning 2 of their last 3 games to clinch the 10th and final seed. The Indians jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the 4:16 mark of the 1st Period as Mike Witt took advantage of some hard work in front of the Plum net by Tyler Volz and Brian Gapsky. They worked the puck free to Witt, who beat Mustangs' netminder Taylor Cestra on the power play for the early advantage. Plum was able to tie the game, however, at the 10:27 mark as Andrew Walters fed Joe Randazzo with a great pass, and Randazzo had plenty of room along the left wing. His shot sailed past NH goalie Nick Reslink on the glove side. A little over 4 minutes later, near the end of Period #1, the Mustangs would cash in with the man-advantage as Nick Maldirossian would beat Reslink. Plum would make the lead seemingly insurmountable at the 12:02 mark of the 2nd period with Randazzo's second goal of the game, giving the Mustangs a 3-1 lead. However, in typical North Hills fashion, the Indians scratched and clawed thier way back. Just 17 seconds later, the NH top line of Witt, Brett Berner, and Jake Lydon worked their way into the Plum zone and used a tic-tac-toe play as Lydon beat Cestra to narrow the gap to 3-2. The Indians kept the pressure going in the early part of the 3rd period, and their persistence woudl pay off as Berner made a nifty backhand-to-forehand move and wristed the puck past Cestra to tie the game at 3 apiece. The Mustangs, though, would free work the puck into the Indians zone later in the period as Zach Kuhn found a little space within the Indians defense and put a shot on Reslink, who was able to make the initial save, but Jake Kuhn was in perfect position to bang in the rebound at the 7:26 mark. North Hills got a chance to tie the game late when Plum drew a penalty for having too many men on the ice. The Indians would make the late power play a 6-on-4 as they pulled Reslink to put Tienan McGrath on as the extra attacker, but while NHG was able to get 2 shots on net during that stretch, they were not able to score, and Plum edged North Hills, 4-3, on the opening round of the Class AA Penguins' Cup playoffs. Randazzo earned #1-Star honors with 2 goals and an assist. The 2-Star was Maldirossian with both a goal and an assist, and the Indians' Berner was the 3-Star with a goal and an assist in the losing effort. The Mustangs move on to challenge the Chartiers Valley Colts in the Quarterfinal Round with a 12-10 record. North Hills, despite the valiant effort, sees its season end at 6-16.
Moon Tigers 8 – Gateway Gators 1
In what is probably the coldest venue in Western Pennsylvania, the Moon Tigers got hot early and easily skated past the Gateway Gators in the first round of the Class AA PIHL Penguin Cup Playoffs on Monday night. The Tigers wasted very little time as their top goal-getter, AJ Coleman, scored his 1st of three goals just 0:26 into the first period. Coleman, who netted 32 goals in the regular season, also scored Moon’s second goal at the 5:15 mark of the first period, giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. Gateway was able to cut the lead in half as Jake Dehass scored on the power play as the first period horn sounded. However, the Tigers scored the only three goals in the second period as Josh Bioni scored twice and AJ Coleman got the hat trick leading the Moon Tigers to a 5-1 advantage after two periods. Bioni would go on and post the Tigers second hat-trick of the night with the 8th and final goal at the 14:48 mark of the third period. Goaltender Eric Owen wasn’t challenged much but came up big when he had to as he turned away all but one of the Gators shots on the night. With the win, the Moon Tigers will now go on and face the top-seeded West Allegheny Indians on Thursday night at the Airport Ice Arena.
PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS A FIRST ROUND:
Freeport Yellowjackets 5 – Bishop McCort Crimson Crushers 1
For the Freeport Yellow Jackets, good things come in "3's". Their 5-1 opening round victory over Bishop McCort at the Belmont Ice Complex was win number "3" of the season for the Jackets over the Crimson Crushers. And Cole Hepler's "3" goals led the way for Freeport to advance to the next round. Freeport led 1-0 after the 1st period on Greg Newman's goal at 7:28 of the opening frame. Hepler notched his first goal of the night at 7:25 of the 2nd to put Freeport up 2-0. Bishop McCort cut the lead in half at 11:03 mark, as Noah Sakmar re-directed Nate James shot past Jackets keeper Cody Lee. The goal sparked the Crusaders, who had momentum in their corner and a power play shortly after as well. But that momentum changed 1-minute into the McCort power play. Hepler picked up a loose puck at center ice and raced towards the Crushers net when he was tripped from behind, resulting in a short-handed penalty shot attempt. Hepler made it count, as he went backhand to forehand twice and put the puck through the legs of McCort goalie Jimmy Stenger to put the Jackets up 3-1. That score would hold up until the end of the period, but it was the play that changed the game, as Freeport never looked back after it. In the 3rd period, it was Hepler who would strike for the 3rd time, as his power play goal at 7:11 put Freeport ahead 4-1. Hunter Kepple would add another power play goal :41 seconds later, and the Yellow Jackets cruised to the win, outshooting Bishop McCort 37-9 on the night. Special teams were the difference in this one as well, as Freeport not only scored twice with the man advantage and had Hepler's shorthanded penalty shot goal, but the Jackets also killed off all five Crimson Crusher power plays. Freeport (11-7-2) now moves on to play #2 seed and defending champion Mars on Thursday night at Bladerunners-Warrendale. Bishop McCort finishes their return season to the PIHL with a record of 5-15.