Penguins Cup champs to shoot for state titles Saturday
By: Joe Sager
Friday, March 23, 2018 | 12:00 PM
The three Penguins Cup champions are looking to make history Saturday as they travel to West Chester to meet the Flyers Cup winners for the state championship.
Bishop McCort meets Bayard Rustin at 11 a.m. in the Class A title game, while Armstrong battles Downingtown East at 1:30 p.m. in Class 2A and Seneca Valley takes on St. Joe's Prep at 4 p.m. in Class 3A.
RAIDERS SEEK FIRST TITLE
Seneca Valley (15-6) captured its first PIHL Penguins Cup championship with a 4-2 win over Peters Township, which ended the Indians' Penguins Cup and state title repeat hopes.
The Raiders feature a balanced attack. Only one player — Michael Spokane — reached double digits in goal scoring during the regular season and he had 10. Hunter Mueller paced the team with 16 points. Gio Sarachine had 14 points and Tyler Draper was next with 12 points. Draper has topped the team in the postseason with three goals and four points.
In the Penguins Cup championship, defenseman Jackson Blucher scored his first goal of the season. He only had one assist coming into the game. Seneca Valley hopes for continued contributions throughout the lineup.
“Anybody can help you win a hockey game at any given point in time. That's why they are on the ice,” Seneca Valley coach Anthony Raco said. “You play a system and you study film and you work on these things. It's nice to see the hard work pay off.”
Defense and the goaltending of Logan Johnson have been the Raiders' strength. They allowed only 35 goals during the regular season and five in three playoff games.
“Defense is a team game. The forwards have as much to do with it as the defense. Logan just gives us an opportunity to win anytime we're out there,” Raco said. “We're very blessed to have a goalie like him and guys that are willing to fight to block shots and get pucks out and making the most of our opportunities when we get them in the offensive zone.”
The Hawks (24-4), a traditional football power, are in their first hockey state title game after a 4-2 upset win over Holy Ghost Prep. Senior Conor Ryan leads the squad. He tied for the Flyers Cup in scoring with 11 points and was named the Bobby Clarke MVP. Teammate Marc Colavita had 11 points, including eight goals, in three games and was named to the all-tournament team. Ronan Egan added nine points.
ARMSTRONG HOPES TO CONTINUE RUN
Like Seneca Valley, Armstrong (19-3) is in search of its first state title. The program won a Penguins Cup Class 3A championship in 1991 as Armstrong Central, but fell to Council Rock in the state title game. The high school was deconsolidated into separate Kittanning and Ford City high schools before the programs merged again in 2013-14. The high schools consolidated into Armstrong in 2014.
The River Hawks continued their offensive surge against Quaker Valley in a 5-0 Penguins Cup win. Armstrong outscored its three postseason foes 24-6. Zachary Kutch led the team with 57 points during the regular season. He has seven in the playoffs. Jace Rearic's 53 points ranked second to Kutch, and he is second in the postseason with eight points. Easton Hooks leads the squad with seven goals and 12 points in the postseason. Gio Romeo has five goals and two assists, as well.
“Our forwards have been unselfish with the puck,” Armstrong defenseman Jacob Gross said. “They are just really playing well together as a team.”
Downingtown East prevailed in overtime for the third game in a row with an upset of top-seeded Central Bucks South, 4-3, to defend its Flyers Cup crown. The Cougars are going for their second state championship in a row.
Senior defenseman Luca Pisano finished second on his squad with eight points and earned the Bobby Clarke MVP award for the second year in a row. He gained that honor last year as a forward. Forward Justin Cohn paced Downingtown East with nine playoff points and earned all-tournament team honors along with goaltender Matt Shandler.
McCORT HOPES FOR PERFECTION
Bishop McCort (23-0) looks to wrap up a perfect season when it battles powerhouse Bayard Rustin, which secured a fifth-straight Flyers Cup title.
The contest features two tradition-rich programs. The Crimson Crushers have five state crowns (1994-97, '99), while the Golden Knights have won five times ('09, '14-17) in 10 seasons. A fifth-straight state title would tie the program with Meadville ('92-96) for the most in a row.
Bishop McCort is back in the state championship for the first time since 2005. The Crimson Crushers needed overtime to do it, too, as they edged Meadville, 3-2 in the extra session to claim a seventh Penguins Cup. Bishop McCort scored 140 goals in the regular season and international students Aliaksei Kostserau (61 points), Matsvei Kurylovich (54) and Alexander Komov (38) led the squad. Brett Seitz and Komov, who had the golden goal against Meadville, have a team-best seven points in the playoffs. Cole Berkebile is second with five.
Nick Ferraro led Bayard Rustin with 10 points in four playoff games and was named to the all-tournament team. Teammate Matthew Owens tallied seven goals and nine points to earn Bobby Clarke MVP honors.
“We're not changing the way we play. Our mentality will be to try to do what we do well. From our first game of the year to our 24th, we've done everything the same exact way,” Bishop McCort coach John Bradley said. “So, when you get into these situations, it's not like we're changing anything. We ask our guys to back check to the goal line, block shots, chip the puck out and do little things, whether it's hitting the net or making the selfless play of just throwing it in and taking a hit. If it's not good enough on Saturday, then we're not good enough. But these guys believe in themselves and they work hard. If they play the game the way we've been playing the last 23, we'll have success. You have to be good, but you have to be lucky, too. Hopefully, we'll be both on Saturday.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.