Burrell stops rival Deer Lakes, earns date with Neshannock in PIHL Division 2 finals

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Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 11:46 PM


Deer Lakes had a five-on-three power play late in the second period and a chance to get back into the game, but Aidan Petroff was having none of it.

After his goalie, Kooper Price, robbed Mark Rauenswinter on a point-blank shot, Petroff went the other way and scored on the backhand with 13.6 seconds remaining in the period.

That goal came moments after Petroff had scored another one while short-handed and combined with a stellar effort by Price was enough for the Bucs to down the rival Lancers, 5-2, in the PIHL Division 2 semifinals Thursday night at RMU Island Sports Center.

“I saw Cody Martin was going to ice it and (Deer Lakes) stepped up for it, so I took a risk in case it bounced and it bounced,” Petroff said. “It ended up being a one on one, so I slowed up and turned on the jets to crash the net and went backhand, top shelf.”

The Bucs will face Neshannock in the D2 championship at 8:45 p.m. Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. The Bucs are in the championship game for the first time since 2019 and are seeking their first D2 title.

“It’s awesome,” Petroff said. “They’ve been our rival all season. Every game we’ve played against them has been chippy and a tough game. It’s great to come out on top.”

The Bucs (18-3) moved to 3-0 on the season against Deer Lakes (13-7-1) after sweeping the regular season meetings.

Petroff’s first short-handed goal came as Hank Szenyeri was leaving the box to end a 4-on-4 situation and give the Lancers an abbreviated power play.

Tyler Danko set up Petroff with a pass from behind the net and he wristed a shot past Lancers goalie Aaron Haney.

Prior to Petroff’s two goals, Mike Morazcyzk scored on a wrist shot off the rush for the first goal of the game just over a minute into the second period.

Price, a junior, made 30 saves. He stopped Zachary Nacey twice on breakaways.

“It’s really hard to rattle (Price) in any way,” Bucs coach Luke Kopchak said. “A lot of stuff has been thrown at him, so he knows how to handle it.”

At one point in the second period, he made two consecutive saves on shots in close, and as bodies were falling all around him, his mask went flying.

As the Lancers and Bucs skaters were sorting themselves out in the crease, Price calmly stood to the side and readjusted his mask.

“I’ve been through that before, except my helmet stayed on,” Price said. “Being the only goalie, I can’t take the chance of getting kicked out, so I just wanted to avoid the havoc.”

RJ Noulett got Deer Lakes on the board a little under four minutes into the third. The goal gave the Lancers a spark and they had a couple more opportunities to get within one, but Price shut the door.

Jared Wall scored on a rebound after a shot by John Lukac halfway through the period to make it 4-1.

Rausenwinter scored with six minutes remaining to cut the lead in half, but Wall got his second less than two minutes later to put the game away.

It’s the second consecutive season Deer Lakes has had its PIHL campaign end in the semifinals, but this time they were the fourth seed out of the Gold Division and pulled an upset over Carrick in the quarterfinals.

“These guys went from a JV team to a varsity team to making it to the semifinals back-to-back years,” Lancers coach Jonathan Merlo said. “I’m proud of all of them, from the freshmen all the way up to the seniors, because they all played a part in us getting here.”

Neshannock 8, Bishop Canevin 5 — Led by a hat trick by Gio Valentine and two goals from Marcello Cerasi, Neshannock stormed past Bishop Canevin and clinched a spot in the PIHL Division 2 championship game for the third time in four years.

Neshannock scored four times in the second period to erase a 2-1 deficit after one.

The Lancers (16-3-1) were the only team to beat the Crusaders (19-2) in the regular season.

Brian Kalanish scored on a breakaway for Bishop Canevin 1 minute, 18 seconds in and Eion Tiernan added a power play goal to make it 2-0, but Ben Hollen got a power play tally for Neshannock late in the first.

Hollen’s goal gave Neshannock momentum going into a wild second period.

Valentine scored six minutes in to tie the game at 2-2.

Four minutes later, Cerasi got his first on a heads-up play.

Nick Bucci hit Cerasi on a stretch pass for a partial breakaway and Bishop Canevin goalie Ayden Worstell stopped the initial shot, but the rebound sat loose behind him.

Cerasi skated in and tapped the puck into the net to give Neshannock its first lead.

Bucci deflected a Kent Jones shot into the net less than two minutes later to increase the lead to 4-2.

Zach Bittner responded for Bishop Canevin by slamming home a puck in the crease to cut the lead to one, but Neshannock got two more before the end of the period.

Cerasi scored top shelf on a wrist shot off the rush and Jon Moniodes added another goal with 34 seconds remaining in the period.

Valentine scored twice in the third to put the game away. The second one came on a power play. He has five goals in the playoffs.

Bittner scored his second of the game and Jayden Martinec had a goal in the final two minutes for the Crusaders.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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