Penguins Cup Playoffs Recaps From Wednesday (3/2) & Thursday (3/3)

Thursday, March 3, 2016 | 3:14 PM

One game on Wednesday and seven more on Thursday helped close out the first two rounds of the high school hockey playoffs in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The stage is now set of the postseason Final Four as four teams from each classification are set to play next week for a spot in the championship game. Here are summaries from the Class AAA, Class AA, Class A and Division 2 Quarterfinals games played on both Wednesday and Thursday in the PIHL Penguins Cup Playoffs.

A special thanks to Don Rebel, Josh Rowntree, Sean Meyers, Mike Azadian, Lou Rood and Matt Vandriak for their help on these recaps.


Erie Cathedral Prep Ramblers 2 – Seneca Valley Raiders 1
Third-seed and 2015 champion Cathedral Prep scored a pair of goals in the third period to stage a come-from-behind victory over Seneca Valley Thursday night at the Mercyhurst College Arena in Erie. The visiting Raiders struck first when Christopher Lipnicky scored with just under seven minutes left in the opening period with helpers from Luke Vilella and Alexander Crilley. After a scoreless second period, Dillon Elliott tied the game 44 seconds into the third period with an assist from Donovan Cullen to tie the game at 1-1. Then with just over four minutes left in regulation, Joe Kelly beat Raiders goaltender Dylan Sloat with an unassisted game winner for the Ramblers. Sloat stopped 25 of 27 ECP shots on goal as Seneca Valley sees their season end with a record of 11-10. Cathedral Prep goalie Jacob Kucharski allowed one goal on 26 shots as the Ramblers move on to the Semifinals on Wednesday at the RMU Sports Complex where they will face the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings.


Baldwin Highlanders 3 – Moon Tigers 1 
The Baldwin Highlanders scored one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Penguins Cup playoffs thus far, as they knocked off the No. 1 seed from the Western Conference, the Moon Tigers, 3-1, in the Class AA first round at the Airport Ice Arena. Baldwin, which had to win a play-in game against Hampton to advance to this contest, used tight defense, spectacular goaltending, and timely special teams play to score the win. Neither squad could gain the upper hand in the first period, as the teams played conservative offense, which resulted in just 13 total shots. Early in the second stanza, however, the Highlanders broke through on the powerplay, as Nickolas Antonio fired home a shot from just inside the blueline. On the play, Baldwin’s leading scorer, Paul Knerr, was hoping to connect with a teammate in the slot, but the pass was errant, and traveled through a bevy of players onto Antonio’s stick, which allowed him to unleash a shot past Moon netminder Ryan Durkin. The lead would be short lived, though, as 2:29 later, Brayden Lange deadlocked the contest on a terrific individual effort. The Tigers’ blueliner carried the puck through center ice, rushed into the offensive zone, and ripped a shot from the right side past Baldwin goalie Cole Shannon. That score would hold until the third period, where the Highlanders scored the decisive tally. Approximately three minutes into the period, Shannon made an incredible save on Luke James to keep the game tied at 1-1. Less than four minutes later, Baldwin again scored on the man advantage, in part because of another great effort by Shannon. The Highlanders netminder made a save on a breakaway attempt by the Tigers, and Baldwin quickly entered the zone on the counter attack. Once inside the zone, the Highlanders set up a play for Knerr, who fired a shot under the crossbar past Durkin to give Baldwin the lead. With 2:20 left in regulation, the Highlanders sealed the outcome, as captain Max Milan scored from a similar spot on the ice, as his shot was partially deflected by a Moon player, and found the back of the net past Durkin. Just seconds prior, Dunkin made a great save on a one-timer, as Baldwin defenseman Kenny Dee generated a scoring chance. The Tigers couldn’t clear their defensive zone, though, which ultimately resulted in the insurance tally. Durkin finished the contest with 22 saves, while Shannon made 20, includes several with a high degree of difficulty. As a result of the victory, the Highlanders advance to play Bishop Canevin at the RMU Island Sports Complex on Monday at 6 p.m.

Armstrong River Hawks 7 – Quaker Valley Quakers 0 
A perfect penalty kill, solid goaltending, and timely scoring were the Armstrong River Hawks recipe for success in this quarterfinal round game from the Belmont Complex in Kittanning. Luke Gross opened the scoring for Armstrong at the 3:12 mark of the first period, giving the River Hawks an early 1-0 lead off of an assist from Jamie Contrael.  Quaker Valley had a golden chance to get the equalizer at 8:12 of the first period, when Connor Quinn broke in towards the River Hawks net and was taken down by Sam Long.  The play resulted in a penalty shot for Quinn, but his wrist shot aimed for the upper right corner of the net missed, and the score remained 1-0.  That play may have been the turning point of the game, because :58 seconds later, Donavon Wichowski found the net for Armstrong.  Wichowski came in on a 2 on 1 and used Zach Kutch as a decoy before whipping a wrist shot past Connor Gatesman to give the River Hawks a 2-0 with 7:14 left in the period. In the 2nd period, Coby Toy went 5-hole on Gatesman with a wrist shot from the left wing circle to give the River Hawks a 3-0 lead at the 5:22 mark.  The Quakers would have a golden opportunity to get back into the game :10 seconds after that though, as Contrael and Tanner Stivason were both penalized on the same play, giving Quaker Valley a full two minutes of a 5 on 3 advantage.  The Quakers had a great chance to capitalize on that power play, as Connor Quinn took a cross ice pass and found himself wide open in front of the Armstrong net.  But Jacob Lorigan dove across the crease and reached out with his glove to rob Quinn of a goal, and keep the score 3-0.  The River Hawks were able to kill of the remainder of the power play as well.  Then with 1:47 left in the period Gross stole a pass in the Quakers zone, and after drifting from the slot to the left circle, and unleashed a wicked backhander for his 2nd goal of the night to give the River Hawks a 4-0 advantage. Just 1:06 into the 3rd period, Kutch scored the first of his two goals to make the score 5-0 Armstrong.  Kutch would net his 2nd goal 4:23 later, with Jace Rearic getting the assist on both tallies.  The River Hawks closed out the scoring with 8:26 left in the final period, as Nick Benvenuti found the net to make the score 7-0. Lorigan was perfect on the night for Armstrong, turning aside all 28 shots that he faced.  The River Hawks also held Quaker Valley to 0-6 on the power play.  Armstrong improves to 17-5-1 on the season with the win and will take on Mars in the semi-finals on Monday night at 8:15pm at the RMU Island Sports Center.  The Planets won the only regular season meeting between the teams by the score of 8-3 back on December 10th.

Mars Fighting Planets 3 – Plum Mustangs 2 
William Scurci’s rebound goal with 4:56 left in regulation lifted Mars (16-5-2) to a 3-2 comeback win over Plum (14-7-2) on Thursday night at the Baierl Ice Complex. With the win, the Fighting Planets advance to the PIHL Class AA Semifinals, in which they will meet Armstrong (17-5-1) on Monday at Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center. Despite outshooting the Mustangs 47-16, Mars would have to fight back from a deficit, as well as a pair of controversial disallowed goals. Keaton Hanna, however, opened the scoring for Mars, striking less than four minutes into the game after being set up by a steal and assist by Ian Newman. After a penalty to Mars’ William Foley, his first of three in a 4:12 span, as well as an apparent goal by Scurci that was disallowed, Plum would even the game. Zach Nolan would punch him a rebound goal after a Dillon Joyce shot, tying the game at the 11:36 mark. After two more penalties on Foley, including a ten-minute misconduct, Nolan Puhala would cash in for Plum with a power play goal assisted by Steven Shields and Nolan. But momentum, as well as shot totals, would begin to tilt after the first intermission. Mars would outshoot Plum 7-6 in the first period, but would go on to outshoot the Mustangs 38-10 over the final 34 minutes. Early in the second period, it would appear that Mars had tied the game on a wild goal by Owen Vasbinder. However, officials again waved the goal off, indicating the Plum goaltender Nathan Puhala had been interfered with and, therefore, was unable to play the puck. However the disallowed goal only seemed to spark the Planets ever further and, after Louis Poprocky went to the box late in the period, Noah Raymundo would drive home a power play goal with just 4.7 seconds left in the period, evening the game at 2-2. A back-and-forth third period appeared to be heading to overtime when Scurci would punch in a rebound on a shot by Jonathan Kowalkowski, giving Mars the lead at 3-2 with under five minutes to play. Mars, which won the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup a year ago, will meet Armstrong on Monday at 8:15pm. The Planets defeated Armstrong, 8-3, in their lone meeting of the regular season.


West Allegheny Indians 7 – South Park Eagles 0
In PIHL single A first round action at the Airport Ice Arena, the West Allegheny Indians win with ease beating the South Park Eagles 7-0. They move into the semi finals and will play the  South Fayette Lions, an upset winner over Freeport. The game will be played Tuesday March 8th at 6:00pm at the RMU Island Sports Center. The Indians made it look easy early as they scored two goals in the first 2:30 of the game. Lorenzo Giacomino and Mason Carlisle put West A up 2-0 and they seemed to be on a roll. They came out flying and went hard to the net and pounced on rebound for the two early tallies. However the Eagles put up a fight and the rest of the period was close as South Park goalie Shane Walker kept South Park in the game. The Indians would score in the final :25 seconds as Bradley Ryniawec gave them a 3-0 lead going into the second period as the Eagles could not clear the puck from their zone. West A would put the game out of reach with two second period goals, Jess Ligas and Carlisle with his second made it 5-0 and the Indians were on a roll. Two third period tallies one by Jaret Mielnicki, and the other by Brendan Derosky made the final 7-0. Indian Goalie Anthony Dominick made 28 saves, at least a half dozen great saves to keep West A ahead in the first and second period. In all six different Inidians scored goals as they were well balanced on offense. Twelve West A players had points in all. West Allegheny improves to 21-2 and have won eight games in a row. South Park ends their season at 10-13-1. They finish the season losing eight of their final 13 games after starting the season 6-5.

South Fayette Lions 6 – Freeport Yellow Jackets 3 
South Fayette, the number 3 team from the Western Conference, traveled to the Belmont Ice Complex in Kittanning where they took on the Eastern Conference number 2 team Freeport in the PIHL Varsity Class A Quarterfinals.  Behind 5 goals from Jordan Timmons that the e Lions made the long trip worthwhile as they defeated the Yellow Jackets 6-3 to earn a berth in the semifinals opposite West Allegheny.  Timmons led off the scoring for South Fayette just 16 seconds into the 1st Period as he took a long pass from Ian Kumar and converted it into a breakaway goal for the games first score.  Spencer Barber made it 2-0 Lions with a goal at the 11:52 mark of the period.  Robbie Reichenbaugh got Freeport on the scoreboard at the 3:58 mark of the 1st with an unassisted goal to cut the lead to 2-1.  The 2nd Period saw the Lions increase their lead to 3-1 on Timmon’s second goal at the 12:43 mark and claim a Nehat trick just 4 minutes later at the 8:02 mark to make it 4-1 South Fayette.  It looked as though the Lions had the game under control until a pair of costly penalties put them down two players and Freeport made them pay. Reichenbaugh scored his second goal at the 3:56 mark of the period and following a yet another Lion penalty, he tallied his 3rd goal of the game with 1 minute remaining in the 2nd period to cut the lead to 1, 4-3 South Fayette.  Freeport came out flying to start the third period and it looked as though it would not take long for the Yellow Jackets to tie the game, but the Lions persevered thanks to strong goaltending from Kyle Sharp and a determined defensive team effort that was able to fend off Freeport’s attack. Timmons 4th goal of the game gave the Lions a 2 goal cushion at the 6:50 mark of the 3rd period and his 5th goal wrapped up the scoring and put the game on ice at the 5:04 mark and make the final score 6-3 South Fayette.  The Lions outshot Freeport 50-24 during the game doubling their shots on goal.  The Yellow Jackets were 2-7 on the power play and South Fayette 0-4.  Next up for the Lions will be a meeting with the number 1 team from the Western Conference, the West Allegheny Indians in the semifinals to be played at Robert Morris.

Bishop McCort Crimson Crushers 6 – Thomas Jefferson Jaguars 1
Bishop McCort jumped on Thomas Jefferson for four goals in the first period and never looked back as the Crimson Crushers cruised to a five goal victory over the Jaguars Wednesday night at Planet Ice in Johnstown. Tristan Mock led the Crushers with three goals with an even strength and power play goal in the first, then he completed the hat trick in the third period with a shorthanded strike. Connor Bunn had two goals for Bishop McCort while Christopher Miller three assists. Daniel Harrold scored the only goal for TJ as the Jaguars season ends with a record of 11-12-1. Brett Seitz also scored a goal for the Crimson Crushers while netminder John Bradley made 27 saves on 28 shots as the Crimson Crushers improve to 18-4-1 and will face Franklin Regional Tuesday in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class A Semifinals contest at the RMU Island Sports Complex .

PIHL DIVISION 2 Quarterfinals:

Indiana Little Indians 3 – Blackhawk Cougars 0
Zane McElhenny stopped all 21 Blackhawk shots on goal and Patrick O’Neal scored all three goals as defending PIHL Division II champion Indiana advanced to the Final Four with a 3-0 whitewash at S&T Ice Arena in Indiana Thursday night. O’Neal scored in each period with an unassisted goal 3 minutes into the game, a tally with an assist from Dillon Butz 3 and a half minutes in period number two and a shorthanded unassisted score 49 seconds into the final period. Blackhawk ends its season at 10-11-0 while the Little Indians improve to 13-8-0 and will now face top-seed Beaver on Monday in the D-2 Semifinals at the Baierl Ice Complex in Warrendale.

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