Moon capitalizes on Burrell mistakes in 3rd period to claim 1st PIHL Division II title

Monday, March 19, 2018 | 10:40 PM

Burrell felt pretty good about being tied with top-seeded Moon after two periods of the PIHL Division II championship, but coach Max Rickard was concerned about mistakes his team made in its own zone that led to difficulty clearing the puck.

Those mistakes weren't remedied to start the third, and it proved costly.

The Bucs made two turnovers in their own zone and gave up a breakaway on the first three shifts of the third, and Moon made them pay every time with goals by Alexander Angevine, Zach Wildasin and Shawn Hytla.

The Tigers went on to score two more times in the third on their way to a 7-4 win over No. 3 Burrell on Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“It was about a three-minute meltdown there in the third period, and that's all it takes,” Rickard said. “Those three minutes didn't describe the whole game, but I think it did describe our play in the defensive zone. We're an offensive team, and they are a defensive team, but it works both ways. We have to play a full game, and we weren't good enough on defense tonight.”

Angevine had a puck pinball to him all alone in front of the net, and he buried a shot past Bucs goalie Andrew Burkett to give Moon a 3-2 lead 11 seconds into the third. Wildasin was sprung on a breakaway by Ben Daniels 40 seconds later, and Hytla scored from the point through a screen after a failed Bucs clearing attempt a minute after Wildasin's goal.

Angevine, Hytla and Wildasin scored two goals apiece.

“We kept telling them they had to go out and earn it because nobody was going to get it done for them,” Moon coach Joe Sell said. “They had to do it themselves. I didn't expect three straight goals on three straight shifts, but we'll take that every time.”

Moon, which faced uncertainty if it was going to field a team this season, won its first PIHL championship. The Tigers had played in Class AA the previous three years, but graduated 13 seniors from last year's team and had five players quit in August, leaving the team with nine skaters and a goalie. The low numbers put the team in jeopardy, before it co-oped with OLSH to form a team in Division II.

Sell expects to have a full roster from Moon again next year and to move up in class.

“We had a tough hand dealt to us early on with some kids leaving,” Sell said. “We didn't know where we were going to be this year, but this group stuck with it. They battled, and I have a lot of respect for them. They earned it, and I'm very proud.”

Burrell (15-6) had a hiccup in its own zone 10 seconds into the game, and Angevine took advantage with a shot up under the cross bar to open the scoring for Moon (20-1). Nathan Smith evened things up for Burrell with a slap shot from the point with the Bucs on a two-man advantage three minutes into the first.

The Bucs had several opportunities on the power play in the second, including a second five-on-three advantage, but couldn't cash in. Tyler Stewart, the PIHL's leading scorer, showcased his speed and skill all game. He found the crossbar with three consecutive shots in the second before ripping a shot past Lukas Konecsni to score his 50th goal of the season and give Burrell a 2-1 lead five minutes before intermission. Hytla scored on a power play two minutes later to even the score at 2-2.

Stewart factored in on all four Burrell goals and finished the season with 77 points.

Burrell, which in its second season back at the varsity level, played in its first title game. Stewart returns next season, along with goalie Andrew Burkett and several other major contributors.

“We know we can compete with any of these teams,” Rickard said. “I think Tyler Stewart is the best player in all of the PIHL right now, and he's coming back. But to be the best, you have to beat the best, and tonight they were the better team.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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