Norwin hockey team edges Fox Chapel for PIHL playoff win

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 | 10:12 PM

Mario Cavallaro skated wide as two defenders closed in on his puck-handling teammate, Alex Thomas.

Then, in a flash, the pair of sophomore forwards connected for some playoff magic.

Thomas delivered a pass to Cavallaro, who fired his second goal of the game into the back of the net 2 minutes and 9 seconds into overtime to lift No. 4 seed Norwin to a 5-4 victory over No. 1 Fox Chapel in a PIHL Class A semifinal Wednesday night at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.

Norwin (15-4-2) advances to the Penguins Cup championship for the first time since 1984 to play McDowell (14-8) at 8:45 p.m. Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Center in Cranberry.

“I saw Alex, and I knew he was going to get it to me,” Cavallaro said. “He made an amazing play.”

Cavallaro and Thomas each had two goals, and Thomas added two assists for Norwin, which handed Fox Chapel (19-0-2) both of its losses this season.

“We had a lot of confidence going into OT,” said Thomas, who sent the game to overtime with a goal with 8:22 left in regulation.

Norwin rallied in the third period to upset the Foxes, 6-5, late in the regular season.

This time, Fox Chapel rallied but could not get over the final hurdle.

The Knights led 3-1 in the rematch before the Foxes came back to tie it 3-3 in the third period.

“We have had great chemistry from our second line all year,” Norwin coach Mike Robinson said. “It was no different than three weeks ago. That was two sophomores playing in this big stage.”

Senior William McNamara had a goal and an assist, and senior Gavin Gebhart had three helpers.

“Norwin is three lines deep, they play solid defense and they play for one another,” Fox Chapel coach Cam Raidna said. “They’re relentless. Tonight, they won more one-on-one battles than we did.”

Norwin opened the scoring at the 7:52 mark of the first period when senior Robbie Chappell flicked in a shot in close — from freshman Cade Zeravica.

But the Foxes quickly responded about a minute later on a slap shot by junior Mason Heininger at 6:44.

Senior Gavin Gebhart assisted the score.

It was 2-1, Knights, after Thomas connected on a wrist-shot from the left-wing circle at 1:27 of the first.

Situated between the circles, Cavallaro fired a shot past goaltender Nash Wedner to give Norwin a 3-1 advantage.

The Foxes cut the deficit to two just before intermission when McNamara took a feed from Gebhart and scored past sophomore goaltender Owen Burmeister, who finished with 30 saves.

Early in the third, the Foxes tied it 3-3. Freshman Tyler Goldstein’s wrist-shot from the point zipped by Burmeister for a power-play goal.

They exchanged goals again later in the period. Senior Ryan Zatman beat Burmeister top corner to make it 4-3.

Thomas then made a nifty move in front and scored his second goal with 8:22 to go. The 4-4 tie held up until the end of regulation.

McDowell 5, Quaker Valley 3 — Nico Catalde scored two third-period goals to pull McDowell (14-8) past Quaker Valley (16-6) in a PIHL Class A semifinal at RMU Island Sports Center.

Catalde found the net on a power play with 11:35 remaining to give the Trojans a 3-2 advantage before his rebound at 9:48 added insurance.

Kurt Johnson added two goals and an assist for McDowell, which will take on upstart Norwin for the Penguins Cup 8:45 p.m. Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Braden Steffy, Ben Carlson and Max Quinn scored for Quaker Valley.

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

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