Four-goal 1st period paves way for Latrobe hockey victory over Armstrong

Monday, March 2, 2020 | 9:48 PM

Latrobe passed its first test with ease Monday night in the PIHL Penguins Cup playoffs.

Alex Schall notched two goals during a first-period scoring flurry that carried Latrobe to a 6-2 victory over Armstrong in a Class AA quarterfinal at Greensburg’s Nevin Arena.

The Wildcats (17-1-1) advance to the semifinals Wednesday against Hempfield, which defeated Plum in overtime, at RMU Island Sports Center.

Schall’s first goal, at 5 minutes, 52 seconds of the first period, ignited a four-goal period for Latrobe after Armstrong’s Ethan Prugh had given the River Hawks a short-lived 1-0 lead.

“Obviously, it’s a do-or-die situation, so we wanted to come out and be ready to play,” Latrobe coach Josh Werner said. “Giving up that first goal was a little wakeup call to us. It was a good rebound and, yeah, I was happy with our effort.”

After Darick Hrtyanski’s goal 21 seconds later put Latrobe in front for good at 2-1, Schall cashed in with his second goal of the night at 10:45 for a 3-1 Wildcats lead.

Cole Ferri added another at 13:26 for Latrobe.

“For sure, once we get one, we’re going to get two, three, four,” Werner said. “That’s kind of how we’ve been doing things. But, I’ll tell you, Armstrong is a good team. They came out ready to play.”

The teams met once during the regular season, with Latrobe squeezing out a 2-1 victory Dec. 16.

After a pair of Latrobe goals in the second period by Allen Rider and Alex Walker, Armstrong coach Lee Grafton switched goaltenders, inserting Dylan Morris in relief of starter Gavin Grafton with 8:48 left in the second.

“They kept on having guys go in and out of the slot,” Lee Grafton said. “It was a weakness for us tonight. You can’t let guys be in the slot area. I’m sure they scored like four or five goals that way.”

Maddox Rearic’s goal at 15:03 of the second pulled Armstrong within 6-2, but the River Hawks had no answer for getting back into the contest as Greg Irons made 10 saves in goal for Latrobe.

Neither team scored in the third period.

“It’s always a bad feeling when you’re in a game like that, and you give up a string of goals like that,” coach Grafton said.

Armstrong (7-10-1) used Gavin Grafton and Morris in goal this season in place of injured regular starter R.T. Bowser, a senior who helped lead Armstrong to a Class AA Penguins Cup championship as a sophomore in 2018.

“It was a good game for us,” Werner said. “The crowd was great tonight. They were loud. They were into it, and we were able to feed off that.”

Walker and Ferri had two assists apiece for Latrobe.

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