After wild 3rd period, waved-off goal, Neshannock wins 3rd PIHL D2 title in 4 years

Monday, March 18, 2024 | 11:41 PM

Burrell thought it had the potential game-winning goal late in the third period until it was waved off.

A couple minutes later, Brian McConahy scored to keep Neshannock’s impressive run going.

McConahy’s goal with just over two minutes left in regulation propelled the Lancers to their third PIHL Division 2 title in four years and capped off a wild 6-5 victory Monday night at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

The Lancers trailed by two goals entering the third period but rallied to take home the hardware again.

“It’s great, and it really brings it full circle for this group,” Neshannock coach Mike Multari said. “I’ll borrow a line from former Pirates great Dave Parker. He used to say, ‘When the leaves turn brown, I’ll be wearing the batting crown.’ Well when the calendar turns to spring, Neshannock gets another ring.”

The game was tied 5-5 with 4:19 remaining when, while on the power play, Aidan Petroff threw a cross-rink pass to Tyler Danko, who deflected the puck into the net at the back post.

While the Bucs celebrated, the officials gathered together and after a discussion, they waved the goal off, saying the puck was put in by a distinct kicking motion.

“They explained to us that the puck was kicked,” Burrell coach Luke Kopchak said. “I’ve been doing this 10 years and I’ve never seen a goal get called back for a kick. To do it in that situation was heartbreaking for us. Not to take anything away from Neshannock, but that was a heartbreaker call there for sure.”

McConahy scored on a rebound with 2:08 remaining in regulation. It capped off a four-goal third period.

Neshannock trailed 4-2 after two periods, but Gio Valentine scored twice in the first minute of the third period to tie the game 4-4. Micah DeJulia scored to give the Lancers the lead and make it three goals in the first two minutes of the period.

“Before the third period, I told the guys that they’ve been here before,” Multari said. “My assistant coach talked to Gio (Valentine), Micah (DeJulia) and Brian (McConahy) about how they’ve scored big goals before, and then Brian goes out there and gets the game-winner. It’s unbelievable. It’s why I still do this.”

Forrest Bard scored on a delayed penalty to tie the game back up at 5-5 before McConahy’s winner.

Neshannock had to kill off a 6-on-3 power play in the final 16.2 seconds. With the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Burrell fired pucks at Neshannock goalie Tripp Johns but couldn’t find a way to get the tying goal.

“Our guys always fight no matter what the score is, but it was one of those things tonight where we ran out of time,” Kopchak said. “We made mistakes and they scored on them. It is what it is, but I’m proud of them.”

The wild third period came after a second that was dominated by Burrell.

Petroff weaved his way left to right around bodies and got clear to rip a wrister underneath the crossbar to give the Bucs the lead 3-2 at the 9:49 mark of the second period.

The Bucs got a power play four minutes later and Julian Kemp cashed it in after a wild sequence.

Kemp fell down as Neshannock made a clearing attempt, but somehow kept the puck from leaving the zone. Then he got to his feet and put a shot through traffic that beat Johns.

Neshannock established a physical presence from the opening faceoff, finishing every check it could and got out to a 2-0 lead.

Nick Bucci jammed home a puck in the crease for a power-play goal a little under seven minutes in to open the scoring.

A couple minutes later, Marcello Cerasi put in a rebound off a John Moniodes shot to make it 2-0.

Burrell bounced back quickly, however.

Chantz Watkins scored from the left point after Dante Taliani won a faceoff back to him to get the Bucs on the board.

Petroff tied it three minutes later with a power-play goal. He moved around a defender and put a shot on through traffic that went in under the crossbar.

The Bucs outshot the Lancers 37-27. They were 3 for 8 on the power play.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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