On night of upsets, Seneca Valley dethrones North Allegheny, Peters Township trips Pine-Richland in Penguins Cup semis
Tuesday, March 15, 2022 | 12:42 AM
Seneca Valley’s Andrew Davis scored off a goal-mouth scramble with under seven minutes remaining in regulation and the Raiders made the goal stand up, defeating the two-time defending Penguins Cup champions North Allegheny, 2-1, in the first of two PIHL Class 3A semifinal games Monday night.
North Allegheny scored first when Connor Chi netted his fifth goal of the playoffs, swiping a rebound of a Nate Spak shot that hit the post into an open net late in the first period.
Seneca Valley tied the game at the 11:39 mark of the second period. Senior defenseman Zach Regalski came up the left wing and several strides over the blueline, fired a wrist shot that eluded the glove of North Allegheny’s Rylan Murphy to make it 1-1.
That set up Davis’ heroics. The senior’s second goal of the playoffs came after both Tyler Garvin and Patrick Dolan kept the puck alive during the scramble.
Seneca Valley coach Anthony Raco said the strategy the Raiders talked about between periods paid off on the game-winning goal.
“We felt that something we didn’t do in the first two games against them was get around their net for second opportunities,” he said. “It’s hard work when you get in those battle areas, but that’s what made the difference for us.”
Sophomore goaltender Jonathan Nichols earned the win by making 25-saves. The top-seeded Tigers, who beat the Raiders twice during the regular season by scores of 2-1, saw their season end at 18-3-1.
“We took the same approach as the last two games against them since they were close games,” said Raco. “We know that we can play with anybody in this classification.”
The Raiders will make their first appearance in the Penguins Cup title game since winning their only championship in 2018. Seneca Valley (13-7-1) is the fifth seed and will face third-seeded Peters Township in the finals.
The Indians shut out No. 2 Pine-Richland in the nightcap to advance to the championship for the first time since losing to North Allegheny in 2019.
Senior forward Chase Stauffer scored his first of two goals when he picked up a deflected shot in the slot and snapped it into an open net at 6:06 of the first period.
Stauffer’s second of the night and third of the playoffs came in the second period when he grabbed the carom of a Ryder Mertens shot off the backboards and flipped the puck top shelf on Daniel Mooney to make it 2-0. Mertens finished the night with three assists for the Indians.
Peters Township freshman Will Tomko, the leading goal scorer in the classification during the regular season, scored his second goal of the playoffs just 12 seconds after Stauffer made it 2-0. Tomko took a pass from Austin Malley at the bottom of the left circle and beat Mooney to the far side at 7:46 of the second period.
“Our defensive-zone coverage, the forecheck on their defense and the puck going into the net a couple of times,” were keys to the victory according to Peters Township coach Rick Tingle.
Cooper Slavin (short-handed) and Ben Kovac added empty-net goals in the third period to put the game away for Peters Township.
Pine-Richland (16-6) defeated Peters Township twice during the regular season. Junior goaltender Nolan Hilbert picked up the win and the shutout with 21 saves.
Peters Township will be looking for its seventh Penguins Cup title and first since 2017 when it faces Seneca Valley at 6:30 p.m. next Monday at the UPMC Mario Lemieux Complex in Cranberry.
Tingle said there is not much difference in the style the team plays but the kids are the difference from the previous championship teams.
“We do more or less the same stuff,” he said. “Right now, these guys are jelling. They’re a great character bunch and that’s always a success whether you win it or not.”
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