Baldwin tops Mars in OT thriller to reach Penguins Cup Class AA finals

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 | 11:48 PM

Baldwin boasted one the PIHL’s top offenses during the regular season.

The Highlanders racked up 103 goals and earned the top seed for the Penguins Cup Class AA playoffs. In the postseason, though, they’ve proven they can pull out close games, too.

Baldwin beat Mars, 3-2, in overtime in a semifinal Wednesday night at the RMU Island Sports Center. It followed a 1-0 win over Meadville in the quarterfinals.

“I don’t think we had our best game tonight, mentally and focus-wise, but these guys have found ways to win games all year,” Baldwin coach Justin Glock said. “Credit to Mars, too. They’ve been a hot team lately and they’ve played a lot of close games and never given up. We stuck with it and got the win, thank God.”

Noah Fischer provided the golden goal 4:41 into the overtime period when he swatted in a rebound of a Nelson Buys shot from the near point.

“We had the momentum going into their zone. As soon as we set up the point, we just go right up to their net. It was a nice, low shot from Nelson. As soon as I see a rebound, I am slapping at it. The next thing I knew, it was in the back of the net,” Fischer said. “I didn’t believe it at first. I heard the sound and looked and couldn’t believe it. It’s unreal.”

The Highlanders will play Latrobe (18-2), a 3-2 winner over Hempfield, at 6 p.m. Monday for the Penguins Cup championship at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Baldwin will look for its fourth Penguins Cup and first since 1988. The Highlanders’ first three came in Class AAA.

“I am ready for it,” Fischer said. “I know it’s going to be a great matchup between two very good teams. I am excited for it and can’t wait to see what happens.”

Joey Jacobs got top-seeded Baldwin (19-1) on the scoreboard 3:29 into the game with a goal off a rebound.

The Fightin’ Planets (11-9) responded with Mack Riemer’s power-play goal. Sean Newman carried the puck into the zone down the far boards. He cut to the net and fed the puck to Riemer in front of the goal. He tapped it in for the 1-1 tie with 6:34 left in the first.

The Highlanders built a 2-1 lead on Zach Pender’s goal 2:30 into the second. Buys fired a hard wrister from the near point. Pender got a piece of it in front of the goal and deflected it into the net.

Mars had a two-man advantage for 49 seconds halfway through the second but failed to convert.

Baldwin went on the power play 2:46 into the third. The Highlanders had a chance to grab a two-goal lead, but Mars goaltender Danny Mitchell turned aside a shot at his near post.

Shortly after killing the penalty, Mitchell stopped Baldwin shooters with a couple big saves.

Wes Scurci tallied the equalizer for Mars with 7:38 left. Riemer had the initial shot on goal from the slot. The puck rebounded to Scurci at the near post and he swept it into the net.

The game went to overtime and Baldwin got the winner 4:41 into the extra period.

“Going into overtime, I just told them to calm down. We’re best when we simplify things,” Glock said. “Our first two goals were shots from the point that we got deflections and rebounds. It was a strange game. I just felt like we needed to keep throwing pucks to the net and get a bounce and that eventually happened.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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