North Allegheny blanks Peters Township to claim PIHL Penguins Cup Class 3A title

Tuesday, March 19, 2019 | 11:25 PM

North Allegheny sought perfection Tuesday night.

The Tigers found it as they shut out Peters Township, 3-0, to capture the PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup championship at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

“Tonight, they played as good as we’re going to play,” North Allegheny coach Mike Bagnato said. “It is so awesome to win because this is a great group of kids. The effort that they put in the whole year — not just tonight — was incredible. We were in a lot of close games and we never quit fighting.”

North Allegheny (17-4-0), which claimed its third Penguins Cup and first since 2013, smothered top-seeded Peters Township (16-4-1). Tigers goaltender Rich Karapandi turned aside all 23 shots he faced and credited his defensemen (Nathaniel Heil, Justin Symons, Luke Turkovich, Tyler Duderstadt and Karl Fuchs) for helping secure the shutout.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure,” Karapandi said. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates. We played such a great game. They left me with nothing extra to do. It was great.”

North Allegheny takes on La Salle College High for the state championship Saturday at 4 p.m. at the RMU Island Sports Center.

“We know they are a good hockey team,” Bagnato said. “It comes down to one game, and we have momentum. But, we’re going to celebrate tonight and worry about states tomorrow.”

After a scoreless first period, North Allegheny tallied its first goal 37 seconds into the second period. Following a Peters Township turnover, Will Parreaguirre fed Aaron Miller the puck near the blue line and both skated in alone on goal. Miller kept the puck and backhanded it into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

“When I scored that goal and turned around and saw that student section up there, that’s why we won this game is because we have support from these people behind me,” Miller said.

The goal gave Karapandi and his defense some relief.

“Once I see that first goal, my nerves just go,” he said. “It’s so exciting. I am speechless. I couldn’t ask for a better team to do this with.”

Symons gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead 5:42 into the third when his shot from the far point sailed into the net.

Miller put the game away with 58 seconds remaining when he scored into an empty net.

“It was insane to know, in that moment, that we clinched it and to see the team hugging each other on the bench; I’ll never forget that moment,” Miller said. “Now, we’re going to get some good practices in, and we’ll build on this and then we’ll come back on Saturday and win that game, too.”

The Indians, playing in their third Penguins Cup final in three years, had some chances, but could not solve Karapandi.

“If we give Richie a chance to see the puck, we’re in really good shape,” Bagnato said.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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