Late surge lifts Pine-Richland to PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup title

Monday, March 18, 2019 | 11:54 PM

The final surge was the difference for Pine-Richland.

The Rams scored the last three goals in a 3-minute, 21-second span in the third period Monday night to post a 7-5 win over Upper St. Clair in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup championship at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something I’m always going to remember,” Pine-Richland senior captain Will Studt said.

Pine-Richland (21-0-1) meets Flyers Cup champion Downingtown East (17-5-0) for the state title at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island. The Cougars have won the past two state crowns.

“It was an awesome effort. We’re just happy to get Pine-Richland back. It means a lot, not only to me, but to all the players, parents and the organization,” Pine-Richland coach Jordan Yoklic said. “Now, we’ll get some film and regroup.

“Saturday will come quick. We’ll get a couple practices, clean some things up, watch some film and get ready to go. Those guys out east are a good team, so we definitely have to clean some things up and duplicate the effort of the last 14 minutes here.”

The Rams overcame the scrappy Panthers (16-4-2), who converted five of six power-play opportunities to stay with Pine-Richland.

“Upper St. Clair has a really good power play,” Studt said. “We knew what they were doing, and we still couldn’t stop them. They’re tough.”

Anthony Carone got Upper St. Clair on the scoreboard first when he tallied a power-play goal on a shot from the far slot with 3:25 remaining in the opening period.

The Rams tied it with 49.9 seconds left in the first with a power-play goal of their own. Joe Folmer’s snapper from the near point sailed past screened goaltender Kyle Rohrich.

The second period saw an offensive explosion as the teams combined for five goals and 35 shots on net.

Colton Shiry converted on the power play once again for the Panthers 3:28 into the second period. After a shot from the far wall, Shiry got a piece of the rebound and the puck went into the cage for a 2-1 advantage.

Pine-Richland evened it 1:12 later when Jared Eggert’s shot from the left point sailed into the net. The Rams went up, 3-2, 1:30 later when Studt converted on a 2-on-0 breakway with 10:50 left in the second.

The Panthers connected for their third power-play goal with 8:34 to go in the second period when Devin Rohrich fired a wrister into the net from the far side.

Pine-Richland regained a 4-3 lead when Brandon Kashur jammed in a loose puck at the near post with 6:33 left in the second period.

Upper St. Clair collected a pair of power-play goals in a 27-second span at the start of the third period. Carone tallied his second on a wraparound 1:28 into the period. Quinn Giacobbe ripped a shot off the post that deflected into the net 27 seconds later for a 5-4 advantage.

“We were feeling good after that. It was an emotional rollercoaster out there. That’s what it felt like all game long,” Upper St. Clair coach Justin Becinski said. “The kids battled hard all game long. They showed no quit. They thought they could hang with them and they did. I am proud of them for that. We just couldn’t find it five-on-five and that hurt us. It was a heartbreaker for our kids, but we’ll bounce back. We have a young team.”

Studt slipped through the Panthers’ defense for a breakaway and buried the shot to knot the game at 5-all with 10:42 left. Eggert gave the Rams a 6-5 lead 1:09 later.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” Studt said. “We were always confident we were going to win. There was never a point where we were down that we thought we’d lose; we were always in it.”

Folmer’s blast from the far point gave Pine-Richland some insurance, 7-5, with 7:21 remaining.

“Since they scored five power-play goals, it was really nice to get up by two,” Studt said.

The Rams sealed the win for their first Penguins Cup since they won three in row (2006 and ’07 in Class 2A and ’08 in Class 3A).

“Credit to the players,” said Yoklic, who was a senior on the ’06 championship squad. “No matter what, this whole year, there have been ups and downs and they’ve kept fighting. It’s an unbelievable group. I am just really proud of the guys.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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