Indiana falls to West Chester East in Class A state hockey final

Saturday, April 24, 2021 | 2:59 PM

For two periods Indiana kept West Chester East’s powerful offense at bay and had the lead with 17 minutes to play.

But two goals less than 30 seconds apart early in the third opened the door for the Vikings to earn another state hockey championship.

West Chester East scored four times in the third and earned a 6-3 win over Indiana in the Class A Pennsylvania State Championship Saturday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

The Vikings used a four line approach that wore on the Indians. They outshot Indiana, 47-19, and 37-10 from the second period on.

“They just have so much depth and we were getting tired,” Indiana coach Jordan Haines said. “They came out flying in that third period and after that first goal we just couldn’t stop them. It took the wind out of our sails. I feel we played probably the best two periods that team has seen this year. I would argue their coaches would say the same. I’m happy with our performance, but it’s just hard to run three lines against a team that can roll four deep.”

The Vikings (16-0) won their third state title and first since 2013. It marked the eighth consecutive time a team from the eastern half of the state has won over the western team in Class A, with Bayard Rustin winning the previous six. Indiana (20-1) suffered its first defeat in 28 games dating back to last season, which was halted by the covid-19 pandemic.

“We lost a couple of those games to Bayard Rustin, including one in overtime in the Flyers Cup for the right to play in this game, so if I told you it wasn’t a little bittersweet I would be lying,” West Chester East coach Eric Wolf said. “It’s justification for our program.”

Ethan Agnello cashed in with the man advantage by sneaking a shot past the short side on Vikings goalie Jake Goodshall giving Indiana a 3-2 lead after two periods.

WCE’s Henry Thornton tied the game when the puck bounced to him in the slot, and he shot it through a maze of bodies past O’Connor four minutes into the third. Chase Becnel scored off the rush 22 seconds later to give the Vikings a 4-3 lead.

Michael Cardarelli slipped a shot through a screen for a power play goal three minutes later and Tristan D’Elia added another goal on a breakaway.

“I thought we were a little too worried about style points instead of putting the puck on goal in the first two periods,” Wolf said. “(Indiana’s) third goal was a great example of throwing the puck at the net and having something good happen. I told them if we are taking that and doing it over and over in the third period we don’t deserve the game. They got the message. We started driving to the net and got rewarded for it.”

Ben Nettelton scored two minutes in after the puck pinballed to him in the slot to give Indiana an early 1-0 lead. West Chester East evened the game on the power play with three minutes remaining in the first when Becnel roofed a shot from the left half wall just under the crossbar.

Indiana spent the majority of the second period defending in its own zone, but Zach Eisenhower scored from the slot at the eight minute mark of the second to give Indiana a brief 2-1 lead. Tristan D’Elia answered for the Vikings two minutes later.

Though the Indians were hemmed up in their own zone for long stretches in the second they were disciplined and kept sticks in the passing lanes to limit scoring chances.

When the Vikings did find some space however, Seamus O’Connor answered. He made 17 saves in the frame, including a fabulous glove save on a shot by Joey Cardelli from point blank range. He finished the game with 43 stops.

“Seamus stopped three or four shots in the second that should have been goals,” Haines said. “He played amazing. In a lot of our games he only saw 17 or 20 shots. A game like today, we really got to see what he can do. He’s never seen almost 50 shots in a high school game, and he handled it well.”

Though the Indians fell short of winning a state championship, they earned their first Penguins Cup title in team history. They graduate a dozen seniors.

“It’s been a special ride,” Haines said. “My coaching staff and I came in about five or six years ago, and we’re working to develop these kids when they were in middle school and junior high, while coaching the varsity team. We got them to understand what we expected from our system to life goals and lessons to school work. It’s been fun working with them, because it’s almost been like running a professional program.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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