Late response lifts Moon past Connellsville in PIHL Division 2 semifinals

Monday, March 12, 2018 | 10:27 PM

After Connellsville tied Monday's semifinal game early in the third period, Moon searched for a response.

The Tigers' Shawn Hytla delivered it and help propel the Tigers to the PIHL Division 2 championship game with a 2-1 win over the Falcons at the RMU Island Sports Center.

Moon (19-1) will play for the Division 2 title next Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

“This is just a great feeling. Getting to the championship is unbelievable,” Hytla said. “We are playing pretty well. The first and second periods were a little shaky, and they ran us down a little bit. The third period is our period and we came back, fought through it and got a goal.”

The top-seeded Tigers took a 1-0 lead over the fourth-seeded Falcons (11-9) just 2 minutes, 57 seconds into the game. Moon forward Logan Zarin carried the puck through his zone, weaved through Connellsville's defense and buried a shot.

The squad clung to that advantage the rest of the period and for the entire second until Connellsville answered early in the third. Mike McKitrick broke the shutout 5:21 into the period.

“We got that quick one early and kind of let off the gas. We've had that happen a few times,” Moon coach Joe Sell said. “That whole third period, I thought we controlled. It was unfortunate that the one play along the boards, we didn't get it out and they came back and scored. There was no panic on the bench, though. I think it woke us up that we had to go and they did.”

The Tigers went ahead 2-1 with 2:57 to go. Hytla scored on a two-on-one rush. David Pawuk sent the puck back to Hytla, who flipped it into the open net along the far post.

“I don't think we had our legs tonight. I think Connellsville outworked us for most, if not all, of the game,” Sell said. “Typical of this team — they'll find a way. They found a way at the end. Once they get that lead late, they are good at locking it down.”

Moon held off a late Connellsville charge to secure the win. Tigers goaltender Lukas Konecsni stopped 28 shots to earn the win.

“It was great (when Hytla scored),” Konecsni said. “It was a great feeling knowing we were back in the lead with a few minutes left. We play very well defensively and jump on teams in the third period when they're tired.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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