Boulanger completes hat trick in OT to lift Ringgold into PIHL Class B title game

Monday, March 9, 2020 | 10:38 PM

For the second consecutive year, the Ringgold hockey team will play for a championship.

The Rams, who captured the Division 2 title last season, earned a spot in the PIHL Class B championship game with a 6-5 overtime victory over Elizabeth Forward in a semifinal matchup Monday night at the RMU Island Sports Center.

Nathan Boulanger scored the final three goals for Ringgold (18-0-1), including the game-winning tally 55 seconds into the extra period. Boulanger netted the Rams’ sixth and final goal on a breakaway as he wristed a shot over the right shoulder of Elizabeth Forward goaltender Billy Siemon.

“As soon as I picked up the puck and saw I was on a breakaway, I knew I was scoring,” said Boulanger, who scored just four goals in 10 regular-season games. “I just saw the top left and I shot it.”

The win gives Ringgold three victories over Elizabeth Forward (10-7-2) this season. The Rams earned a 6-5 victory on Oct. 28 and an 8-2 triumph on Feb. 3.

“I thought it was going to be tough because when you play a team three times in a season, you have no idea what can happen,” Ringgold coach Rick Kalinowski said.

The Rams had the momentum early before seeing it shift in favor of the Warriors.

Ringgold built a 3-0 lead on a goal by Evan Eberlein as well as a pair from captain Justin Day, the latter of which occurred with just under four minutes remaining in the first period.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty charged to the Rams allowed EF to get on the board with just over three minutes left as Matt Karpuszka scored on the power play off an assist from Michael Vasko.

The Warriors went into the second period trailing by two goals, but they soon took advantage of a few more man advantages.

EF scored four unanswered goals, all on the power play, to build a 5-3 lead within in the first seven minutes of the second. Karpuszka netted his second of the game to cut the deficit to 3-2 before Tayte Donovan tied the score by blasting a shot that rang off the post, went off Ringgold goaltender Jerry Mease and across the goal line.

Jake Provident put EF up on a 5-on-3 power play with 11:48 on the clock, scoring from in close. He added another power play tally 1:08 later.

In total, the Warriors went 5 for 5 with the man advantage.

“If you would have asked people in the hockey world if that would have been that type of game, 90% would have said no and that we would have been blown out,” EF coach John Zeiler said. “We have a lot of heart on our team. We just stayed the course and kept on plugging away.”

Ringgold ended its goal-scoring drought with 5:01 to go in the second as Boulanger scored his first goal of the night and second of the playoffs.

A centering pass on the power play from Day found the stick of Boulanger, who snuck one between the pads of Siemon to make it 5-4.

“Everybody was tight and when the momentum swings like that, then they start playing scared,” Kalinowski said. “Once we got that fourth goal, things started to change and they started to bring themselves back up.”

Siemon, who made 37 saves, kept Ringgold from tying the game in the final minutes. The sophomore robbed Nathan Todd on a key opportunity and later made a save on a Day shot that came right off the faceoff.

“He has come a long way. That kid can play some goalie,” Zeiler said. “The last couple of weeks, he has played some great games, and that’s just going to carry over into next year.”

Ringgold scored the lone goal of the third period, tying the game at 5-5 with 13:39 left in regulation. Boulanger scored off an assist from Zach Kalinowski, burying a wrister from the left circle that sailed over the left shoulder of Siemon.

“That team came to play. They’re well coached,” Kalinowski said of EF. “John had his team ready to play, but we just have too much talent in that room to not be able to score goals, and we proved it tonight.”

Ringgold will play either Carrick in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the UPMC Lemieux Complex in Cranberry.

Carrick 5, Neshannock 4 (OT) — Jacob Fetzer scored his second goal of the game less than three minutes into overtime as Carrick completed a comeback from a three-goal deficit to earn a spot in the PIHL Class B title game.

Trailing 4-2 in the third period, Carrick scored twice in the final six minutes of regulation. Fetzer made it 4-3 with 5 minutes, 43 seconds to go. Ian Norkevicus connected on a shot from the left circle with 14 seconds left to forge a 4-4 tie.

Fetzer stole a puck inside the blue line, moved in on net and shoveled in a backhand shot at 2:34 of overtime.

Neshannock jumped out to a 3-0 lead on two goals by Hunter Deal, including a short-handed score, and another goal from Santino Multari.

Carrick made it 3-2 by the end of the second period when Tyson Feldman scored on the power play and Mikey Farkal scored short-handed in a span of 3:31.

Terence Rice netted a third-period goal for Neshannock (16-3) before Carrick (17-1-2) began its furious third-period comeback.

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