Not one, but two high school hockey championship games were determined on Tuesday with both the Class 2-A and Division II Final Four taking place. While there were warning about the weather for today that never materialized, it was Plum and Latrobe in 2-A and Meadville and Carrick in D-II that unleashed a fury that propels them all to the PIHL Finals at the UPMC Mario Lemieux Sports Complex next week. Here are recaps from all four Semifinals hockey games.
A special thanks to Rob Longo, Lou Rood, Sean Meyers and Matt Vandriak for their help on these recaps.
PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS 2-A Semifinals:
Latrobe Wildcats 6 – Quaker Valley Quakers 3
In the only regular season between Latrobe and Quaker Valley, the Quakers pulled off a 5-2 win. In that contest, the game was tied 1-1. It seemed like Tuesday’s Class AA semifinal would be more of the same, with both teams getting on the board early and level at one after 17 minutes of play. But a wild 1:10 of game action in the second period saw Latrobe take a 3-2 and never look back, winning 6-3. After a slow-moving 22 minutes of play, Quaker Valley pulled ahead 2-1 off a power play goal from Owen Harkins. However, Latrobe took its first lead of the game with a pair of goals in 23 seconds from Cole Novak and Cory Gates.
From the midway point of the second period, it was all Latrobe. The Wildcats scored three straight goals, including two within the first four minutes of the final stanza. Greg Ferri fired one home for good measure, and Ben Kuzma’s second goal of the game was too little too late for Quaker Valley.
Plum Mustangs 5 – Hempfield Spartans 2
Plum’s semifinals game on Tuesday followed a similar storyline to its first-round contest: the Mustangs started poorly against an underdog opponent, but the Mustangs got better as the contest wore on, and controlled the play over the final two periods. The results were the same in both games, as Plum edged Hempfield Area 5-2 in the Class AA playoffs at the RMU Island Sports Complex. Senior Anthony Borriello was the hero for the No. 1 East seed Mustangs, as he recorded a hat trick, while Dillon Joyce contributed four assists. Less than seven minutes into the contest, though, it was the Spartans who struck first, as Dom Schimizzi staked Hempfield to the early edge. That lead was short lived, though, as Borriello answered just 30 seconds later to knot the contest. Schimizzi wasn’t done, though, as he ripped a shot past Plum’s Sergio Benitez on a partial breakaway to put the No. 3 East seed Spartans back in front. That lead stood into the second period, when the Mustangs established their dominance. With the Spartans on an extended penalty kill, Plum’s Ryan Loebig floated a shot from the point that snuck past Hempfield netminder Nolen Ferree to pull Plum even, at 2-2. Borriello then converted again, this time by picking up a rebound and outwaiting the sprawling Ferree, giving Plum a lead it would not surrender. The Spartans had a pair of close calls that seemingly caused their momentum to wane. First, a second-period goal for Hempfield was negated after the officials determined the net came off prior to the puck crossing the line. Then, early in the third period, a shot that deflected off of Benitez’s shoulder seemingly landed over the goal line, but an official ruled the puck did not fully cross. Clinging to the lead, the Mustangs then clamped down defensively for the final 10 minutes of play, and Daniel Baranowski’s tally with just over five minutes remaining sealed the outcome. Borriello completed his hat trick with just a few ticks left on the clock, as he deposited the puck into an empty net. Benitez finished with 24 saves, while Ferree made 38 stops. Plum advances to the Penguins Cup Championship, with the Greater Latrobe IceCats awaiting. The championship contest will be played on Tuesday at 8:30 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
PIHL DIVISION II Semifinals:
Meadville Bulldogs 11 – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Chargers 0
Top seed Meadville scored a pair of first period goals and never looked back in route to an 11-0 shutout over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the PIHL Division 2 Class B Semifinals at the Alpha Ice Arena in Harmarville Tuesday evening. Luke English scored at the 6:54 mark of the 1st period in what would be the game winning goal for the Bulldogs. Jeffery Millan scored eight minutes later to make it 2-0 Meadville at the end of one period. Meadville outshot OLSH 12-3 in the period and controlled the play throughout as the OLSH struggled to mount a consistent offensive presence in the Bulldogs end of the ice. The second period proved to be the undoing for OLSH as Meadville scored 6 times to put the game away. Nicholas Frantz a hat trick in the period scoring at the 1:00, 7:31, and 15:17 marks including a Power Play goal on the 1st score and a shorthanded goal on the 3rd. Jeffery Millan picked up his 2nd goal and Luke Triola and Axel Jager finished up the Bulldog scoring to make it 8-0 at the end of two. Meadville’s dominance continued to be on display as the Bulldogs outshot OLSH 28-6 by the end of the period. The 3rd period saw Meadville continue to exert its offensive prowess as they tallied 3 times to make the final 11-0. Jeffery Millan picked up his 3rd goal just 8 seconds into the period and Nicholas Frantz got his 4th goal seven minutes later to make it 10-0 and Brendan Leech closed out the scoring with just 51 seconds left in the game. Andrew Jacobs added 4 assists and played a strong all-around game for Meadville. Goalie Ed Kaufman recorded the shutout but was only forced to make 10 saves during the course of the game, while opposing goalie Cameron Witowski faced 38 shots on goal during the game, a total that could have been much higher if not for numerous blocked shots by the OLSH defensemen that never got the chance to reach the goal. Our Lady of the Sacred Heart finishes the season with a 12-9 record. Meadville improved its record to 20-0-1 and will face #2 seed Carrick in the Division 2 Championship game Wednesday, March 22 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex at 5:30 PM.
Carrick Cougars 3 – Central Valley Warriors 1
For the third time this season, Carrick defeated Central Valley. And for the third time in three years, it will be the Cougars playing for the Division-2 Championship, by virtue of a 3-1 semi-final round win over the Warriors at the Alpha Ice Complex in Harmarville. There wasn’t any scoring in the opening period, due in large part to the work of both team’s goaltenders. Nathan Norkevicus of Carrick turned aside all 7 shots he faced in the first period, while the Warriors Roberto Wilhelm stopped all 9 Cougars shots thrown at him. In the 2nd period, Carrick finally broke through when Gavin McKain dished a pass from his knees into the left wing circle. That’s where Aiden Barker ripped a wrist shot past Wilhelm to stake the Cougars to a 1-0 at 12:55 of the 2nd period. In the 3rd period, Carrick doubled their lead on a great individual effort by Tyler Wolf. Wolf stole the puck just inside the Central Valley blue line, then broke behind two defenders, before turning Wilhelm inside out with a great forehand to backhand move to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead at the 7:15 mark of the 3rd period. But the Warriors answered just :08 seconds later, when Nick Mulford redirected Anthony Santilli’s shot past Norkevicus to cut the Carrick lead to 2-1. But the Cougars would put the game away on the power play four minutes later in the 3rd, when Ethan Wright fired a shot from the right point that Jason Garchak deflected past Wilhelm, putting Carrick ahead 3-1 at the 11:23 mark. On the night, Norkevicus stopped 20 of the 21 shots he faced, and has stopped 52 of 55 shots in two playoff games for the Cougars. Wilhelm turned aside 23 of 26 shots in the losing effort for the Warriors. Special teams were a key to Carrick’s victory as well, as the Cougars killed all three Central Valley power play chances while going 1 for 3 with the man advantage themselves. With the win, Carrick improves to 18-4-0 on the season and will make their third straight appearance in the Division-2 championship. They’ll be looking for their first title win as well, as the Cougars fell to Beaver last season and Indiana in 2015. Carrick will face top seeded Meadville on Wednesday night at 5:30pm at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. The Bulldogs swept the regular season series against the Raiders, winning 11-1 and 5-4 in overtime. Central Valley’s season comes to an end with a final record of 13-8-1.