Goalie Riley Mastowski makes 53 saves to deliver 1st PIHL title to Neshannock

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | 12:01 AM


Two years ago, by a 5-1 score, Ringgold won a PIHL title over Neshannock in the Lancers’ first season of varsity hockey.

This time, it was same score, different outcome.

Neshannock flipped the script to capture its first hockey championship with the 5-1 victory over Ringgold in the Class B finals Tuesday night at the RMU Island Sports Center.

“Two years ago, we lost to Ringgold right here in this building. Last year, we lost to Carrick in OT. So it’s just been a long time coming,” said Lancers head coach Mark Multari. “It’s a great feeling. The kids bought into everything we preached to them, and they just kept the course.”

The Rams threw everything and the kitchen sink at the Lancers, but it wasn’t enough to get past goaltender Riley Mastowksi, who made 53 saves to help bring Neshannock the championship.

A fast-paced game from the jump saw both teams with a scoring chance in the opening minute, but the goaltenders held their ground.

That would change nearly four minutes into the game.

Neshannock struck first on a bouncing shot from the outside from Tino Multari to make it 1-0.

It didn’t take long for Ringgold to respond. Less than four minutes later, Nathan Boulanger skated around back of the cage and into the slot, turned and fired the puck top shelf over the right shoulder of Mastowski to tie the game 1-1.

But that was the last time the Rams lit the lamp.

With 1:04 left in the period, Neshannock grabbed the momentum. Giovanni Valentine won the puck along the left wall and heaved a pass in front of the goal that Hunter Harris put past Rams goalie Jerry Mease.

Special teams came into play to start the second period.

After Ringgold killed off a Neshannock power play in the middle of the first, it earned its first chance on the man-advantage with 18 seconds left in the opening frame. Neshannock killed the penalty and earned its second power play opportunity.

This time they cashed in.

The Lancers once again took care of business below the goal line as Tommy Malvar centered a pass right on the money for Davey Cochenour, who did not miss, scoring his fourth of the playoffs to put Neshannock up 3-1 with 12:38 to play in the second.

The power plays kept coming as tensions rose.

Ringgold was up next on the man-advantage after an interference call on Malvar. The Rams nearly closed the deficit on a hard-angle shot to the left of Mastowski, but the Lancers netminder was sharp in the second.

Neshannock had another power-play opportunity, but the best scoring chance in that two minute stretch came short-handed by Ringgold. Rams senior Zach Kalinowski stole the puck on a Neshannock turnover in their own end, right in front of the goal, but once again, Mastowksi was on his game and kept the Rams at bay, preserving the 3-1 lead.

“That kid made a great save. It was one of the best saves I’ve probably ever seen,” Kalinowski said.

The Lancers extended their lead with a goal by the player who had been dishing up passes and assists all game long. Valentine flung a backhand shot past Mease to make it 4-1, and Neshannock rode the play of its goaltender to the finish.

Logan Quigley added a late goal for the Lancers, who were well in control with just under two minutes to play, to cap the scoring at 5-1.

The Rams treated the opposing net like a shooting gallery, much like in the semifinal game against Bishop Canevin. Ringgold outshot the Lancers 38-13 through two periods and 54-17 overall.

But all those shots were shoved aside, blocked, kicked and gloved away by Mastowski, who held the Rams to just one goal, making 53 saves to land his team the title.

A runner-up finish is a tough pill to swallow for Ringgold’s seniors, including Zach Kalinowski, Hunter Suarez and Evin Fries, who had a tremendous run and were the tournament’s top seed.

“It was right in front of us, and we lost it,” said Kalinowski, the Rams senior captain. “I love this team. I love them so much. It just sucks the way it ended.”

Tough for head coach Rick Kalinowski to take as well, as both the leader of this squad and a dad.

“We outplayed them. We took some penalties. We knew that was going to happen. We took good shots. We were hitting the areas. The kid was just strong,” said the elder Kalinowski.

“Look at their record,” Multari said. “We knew we had to bring our very best to beat them.”

And what Neshannock brought was the best goalie. Multari had a conversation with Mastowski after the Lancers baseball game on Monday that proved prophetic.

“I said, ‘You have your chance to prove that you can be the best goaltender in Western Pennsylvania. Go out there and earn it,’” Multari said. “And he did. Huge game by him.”

Watch a replay of this game on Trib HSSN.

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