Norwin blanks McDowell to claim 1st Penguins Cup championship

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Monday, March 21, 2022 | 11:50 PM


Norwin likes to give out a banana to its top player after each hockey win, the recipient being the choice of senior defenseman Will Dillner.

The Knights were going bananas Monday night as they made program history, but Dillner could hardly decide on one player. There were a bunch.

This was about as team-effort as a win can be — all the way to the Knights sharing and hoisting the Penguins Cup.

Norwin celebrated its first PIHL championship with a dominant 5-0 victory over McDowell in the Class A final at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“That game could not have been more perfect,” said Norwin sophomore forward Alex Thomas, who had two goals. “We executed the whole game. We wanted to go for it all and we did it.”

The Knights (16-4-2) advance to face defending champion West Chester East in the state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday at Ice Line Quad Rinks in West Chester.

Another sophomore, Mario Cavallaro, also had two goals and added an assist.

Thomas’ second score came on a nifty this-way, that-way move to beat two defensemen, that made it 4-0 early in the third period. Cavallaro’s second score gave the Knights a five-goal advantage with 6:41 to play.

Sophomore Owen Burmeister made 25 saves between the pipes as Norwin posted its third shutout of the season. McDowell, turned away shift after shift, had not been blanked before this game.

“Our defense was really good tonight … it was amazing,” Burmeister said. “We kept our game plan and made it happen. This was monumental for us. This was my best game of the season.”

Norwin had not been to the PIHL finals since 1984 but made the most of its long-awaited return trip as it skated to a 3-0 lead after two periods.

Using its strengths — speed and special teams play — the fourth-seeded Knights limited offensive chances for McDowell (14-9), the No. 7 seed.

The final represented new blood for Class A. McDowell had not been to the league finals since 1980. The Trojans also were seeking their first cup.

Norwin coach Mike Robinson is a McDowell grad, Class of 2009.

He was in awe of how sharp his team played and how well it looked on the big stage.

“Every check mark you can think of you can check off tonight,” Robinson said of his team’s play. “We didn’t let up. Our forechecking and backchecking was really solid.”

McDowell junior Nico Catalde, the PIHL scoring leader with 39 goals and 33 assists, was not able to add to his 72 points. He had four minutes in penalties and could not get going offensively.

“Team defense was really good tonight,” Fear said. “Burm (Burmeister) has come a long way. He has developed into an elite goalie.”

The Cavallaro brothers hooked up for the first goal of the night.

Sophomore forward Mario Cavallaro took a pass from senior defenseman Anthony Cavallaro and scored to make it 1-0, 4:49 into the first period.

Trying to kill a penalty off late in the second period, Norwin took advantage of a miscue by McDowell at the blue line.

Senior forward Logan Fear got loose and ended up with a 2-on-1 with senior forward Ty Shigo wide.

Shigo dumped off to Fear, who one-timed a backhanded shot past Cam Baniewicz for a 2-0 advantage.

“This is the icing on the cake,” Fear said. “We knew we could do this at the beginning of the season. Hoisting that cup and carrying it around was amazing.”

Burmeister made a glove save on a breakaway by Braeden Martin with 3:05 to play in the second.

Thomas then caught Baniewicz off guard on the power play when he fired a wrist-shot top shelf to increase the advantage to 3-0 just before intermission.

Freshman Dom Cerilli and senior Jake Meier also had assists for the Knights.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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