Goalies steal the show as Franklin Regional, Baldwin make Penguins Cup finals

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 | 9:59 PM

Sometimes goaltenders just steal games.

Franklin Regional senior Gunner Fulton did just that Tuesday in the PIHL Class AA semifinals against Montour.

Fulton, who allowed four goals, made numerous key saves down the stretch as Franklin Regional defeated Montour, 5-4, at Alpha Ice Complex.

The victory put the Panthers in the finals April 20 at Robert Morris against Baldwin. It’s the first time since 2017 the Panthers reached the finals.

Fulton made 26 saves — at least five during a Montour power play which started with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left. He also can thank the crossbar, which Montour’s Michael Felsing hit during the barrage of shots.

“I stayed square, and my defense did a good job keeping them out,” Fulton said. “My biggest save was in the second period when I made a toe save.”

Zach Abdallah scored the winning goal for the Panthers with 7:02 left, less than a minute after Montour’s Jon Tokarczyk’s power-play goal tied it 4-4.

Abdallah, who had two assists, picked up a rebound and snapped it past Montour goaltender Anthony Reinholt.

Franklin Regional, which defeated Hempfield in the opening round of the playoffs, started slowly, and sloppy passes led to two Montour goals in the first period.

“As the game wore on, I felt our guys got the butterflies out of our system,” Abdallah said. “We were able to get pucks to the net, and our goalie played unbelievably.”

Felsing scored with 8:26 left to give Montour a 1-0 lead.

Franklin Regional answered quickly with a goal by Zach Zeto 28 seconds later.

“They were the better team,” Montour coach Clay Shell said. “They controlled the neutral zone and slowed us down. That’s why they won.”

Montour took a 2-1 lead when Holden Wilpula scored short-handed after picking up a poor pass to the blue line 17 seconds after Zeto tied the score.

But Zeto scored his second goal during a two-man advantage with 6:51 left.

Franklin Regional took its first lead, 3-2, when Matty Knizner scored with 4:11 left in the wild first period.

“This game played out exactly how we expected,” Franklin Regional coach John Winebrenner said. “We knew we’d have to work extremely hard to pull out the win.

“Everyone was nervous, and we made a lot of mistakes early. We talked to them after each shift to calm them down. Gunner made key saves at the right time.”

Things settled down in the second period. Montour tied the score 3-3 when Jeremy Freeman scored a power-play goal.

But late pressure by the Panthers resulted in a Luke Beatty goal with 0.3 seconds left for a 4-3 lead.

“It’s awesome to get back to the finals,” Abdallah said. “I think we’ve won our past seven games.”

Baldwin 5, Thomas Jefferson 2 — Alex Aul scored a clutch, tie-breaking goal midway through the third period to lead Baldwin to victory in the PIHL Class AA semifinals Tuesday night.

The teams traded goals in the first two periods. Eddie Pazo scored twice on the power play for TJ. Keith Reed and Logan Picchi scored with the man advantage for Baldwin. Reed and Trevor Belak added empty netters in the final minute.

Eddie Nowicki made 33 saves for Baldwin.

Watch an archived broadcast of the PIHL Class AA semifinals on Trib HSSN.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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