Armstrong puts pedal down on Hempfield to reach PIHL Class 2A semifinals

Tuesday, March 7, 2023 | 10:13 PM

There were a few major upsets during the first night of the PIHL Penguins Cup quarterfinals Monday, but Armstrong made sure early on it wouldn’t be the next victim.

The top-seeded River Hawks scored four times in the first period and continued to add on from there in a 12-1 victory over No. 8 Hempfield in the Class 2A quarterfinals Tuesday at Belmont Complex in Kittanning.

Armstrong (18-3) advanced to play No. 5 Thomas Jefferson in Tuesday’s quarterfinals at RMU Island Sports Center.

Hempfield finished the season 7-13-1.

“They were ready to go and the focus was there all night.” Armstrong coach Eddie Germy said. “We preach, don’t let up, keep going.”

Armstrong controlled play from the drop of the puck, hemming the Spartans in their own zone.

Hempfield goalie Blaise Becker stopped the first six shots he faced, but Jameson Yackmack finally broke through with a goal on a rebound eight minutes into the period.

“We knew with the crowd here and the kids amped up that once we got that first one, the place was going to go nuts,” Germy said. “They fed off the crowd all night. We haven’t had a home playoff game in five years, so they’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

Alex Bardyguine added another goal off a rebound from a Wyatt Tutak shot a minute later.

Then, Adam Hooks scored on a great individual effort. Hooks shielded a defender down the left wing and, with one hand on his stick, drove to the front of the net and flipped a shot into the net.

Bardyguine got his second late in the period on a deflection goal.

The River Hawks outshot Hempfield, 19-2, in the first period and 46-16 for the game.

“We wore our hearts on our sleeves for all three periods. I know the score doesn’t show it, but we did,” Hempfield coach Cory Myers said. “This was the first time a lot of these kids played in an atmosphere like this. We weren’t ready for it, and that’s on me because I really didn’t talk to them about what the atmosphere would be like.”

Logan Eisaman got Hempfield on the board with a goal on a deflection in the slot early in the second, but Armstrong responded on the next shift when Nikolai Todorov wristed a shot through traffic that slipped past Becker to make it 5-1.

Yackmack added his second off a nice pass from Jake Graf a few minutes later. After the sixth goal, Becker was pulled for Chase Sankey.

“It wasn’t on Becker at all and he knows that,” Myers said. “We talked after the game and even during the game about it. We were just trying to change any momentum we could, but it didn’t work. Becker’s a senior and so is (Sankey), so we wanted to get them both in.”

Tutak found the net on a rebound late in the second and Armstrong took a 7-1 lead into the intermission.

Armstrong added five goals in the third, two by Chase Hoffman and one each from Chase Hough, Graf and Logan Hooks. Hoffman’s second goal put the game into mercy rule.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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