Seneca Valley rallies to upend Cathedral Prep in Penguins Cup semifinals

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Thursday, March 15, 2018 | 11:39 PM


Seneca Valley was down — twice — but not out in Thursday night's PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup semifinal.

The Raiders rallied for a pair of goals in the third period to upend Cathedral Prep, 3-2, at the RMU Island Sports Center.

Second-seeded Seneca Valley (14-6) plays top-seeded Peters Township (16-4) for the Penguins Cup at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The Raiders seek their first championship.

“It's unbelievable. It's an amazing feeling being able to go to the Pens Cup,” Seneca Valley's Gio Sarachine said. “Peters has been a tough competitor all season. It went to a shootout the first time and OT the second time. It's an even split. It'll come down to whatever team gets the lucky bounce. It's two good teams going at it, and that's what you like to see — the top two seeds going at it for the Cup.”

The Ramblers (13-7) took advantage of some Seneca Valley miscues to take control. They opened the scoring 9 minutes, 37 seconds into the first period when Jake Emerson stripped the puck from a Seneca Valley player, skated in alone on a breakaway and buried it for a short-handed tally.

The Raiders finally broke the shutout when Noah Watkiss spun and fired a rebound that trickled past goaltender Brandon Dumas with 3:48 left in the second.

Cathedral Prep answered 52 seconds later when Jacob Kruszewski cashed in at the near post for a 2-1 edge.

“We felt the first two goals we gave up were kind of our fault,” Seneca Valley coach Anthony Raco said. “We had a terrible turnover on a power play on the first one. The second goal, we talked about how they like to try to get pucks up close and in tight, and we needed to hit guys' sticks and we didn't do that. The good thing was, we were only down by one, so we just needed to keep attacking and getting bodies to the net.”

Seneca Valley's Sarachine tied the score 2:12 into the third period. After a turnover, he wristed a shot into the net to give his squad a boost.

“It definitely gave us a spark. We were amped up to start the third,” he said. “The puck sort of rolled off my stick and didn't go where I wanted it to. But, I looked at the back of the net, and I was surprised to see it. That's how the game goes — lucky bounces here and there. It's an amazing feeling being able to help my team.”

Sarachine set up the go-ahead goal with 8:44 to play. Working hard on the forecheck, Sarachine forced a turnover deep in Ramblers territory. He fed a pass to Tyler Draper in the slot, and he fired a wrister into the net.

“My game is speed, and that's what I do. Credit goes to Draper for being able to wrist it like he does. He has an amazing shot,” Sarachine said. “It felt great to get the first lead. Keeping that lead was spectacular. It's just surreal to be able to come back in that third period. Everybody was grinding and working hard. It was nice.”

Logan Johnson made 24 saves to earn the win in goal.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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