PIHL Team of the Week for Week ending March 1, 2020
Monday, March 2, 2020 | 10:44 PM
Entering the final week of the PIHL regular season, much still was to be determined when it came to the playoffs.
In Class AA, the Northwest Division standings entering the week read Meadville 18, Quaker Valley 17 and Mars 16. Those were the three teams in the mix. Moon was out but could play spoiler.
The situation was fairly simple for the Fightin’ Planets, who played Quaker Valley and Moon. Win once or get two points and at least force a play-in game Sunday. If Mars won both, it clinched the division. In that case, Quaker Valley would need a point in the loss to earn a play-in game against Meadville, which was idle.
Mars won both and will play Montour, who defeated West Allegheny on Sunday in a play-in game for the second spot from the Southwest Division, in the first round of the Penguins Cup playoffs.
Mars defeated Moon, 7-0, on Monday and beat Quaker Valley, 3-2, in overtime Thursday.
“We knew Moon would come to play on its senior night,” Mars coach Steve Meyers said. “They played a pretty good first period, and then we broke it open a bit in the second period.”
Mars scored four times in the second period after a scoreless first. The Fightin’ Planets added three in the third.
Danny Mitchell stopped all 21 shots he faced, and Sean Newman led the way with three goals and two assists. Wes Scurci and Matthew Bobko had a goal and two assists each. Nick Bruce and Shaun Wasylson also scored.
The win, however, didn’t come without a major cost.
In the second period, Mars’ top center Luke Raymundo was hit with an elbow, and then slashed while on the ground. He will miss the rest of the season with an injury. Moon’s Logan Zarin was given a game misconduct and 17 penalty minutes.
Raymundo, who is a sophomore, has eight goals and 10 assists this season. He’s been penalized just once in 17 games. Raymundo is one of many youthful contributors for Mars, which has six seniors on the team.
The win put Mars in a good spot Thursday. They already had ensured a play-in game going into the tilt with Quaker Valley, which they knew would be a good one.
“We knew it would be a tough game. We had a lead and had a bad hiccup that let them score late in third period,” Meyers said. “We knew we needed a point to win the division, so we just tried to hang on to overtime, got it there and won the shootout.”
It was a rewarding week for the Fightin’ Planets.
“I think the Meadville loss really refocused the group,” said Meyers.
The Meadville loss came in the closing moments Feb. 10.
Now Mars gets ready for its playoff game against Montour.
“Montour is very top heavy with a few players that are highly skilled, and they’ve got really good goaltending,” Meyers said. “We had we think one of our best games of the year against Montour a little over a month ago that we lost 3-1 with an empty-netter. We’re pretty comfortable, but they’re a good hockey team.”
· Pine-Richland — The Rams won two games and will enter the Class AAA playoffs seeking to make a deep run. The Rams defeated North Allegheny, 2-1, on Monday and Bethel Park in overtime Thursday. The Rams, who won Class AA last season, will be the fifth seed and face Canon-McMillan in the first round, which begins Tuesday night.
· Montour — The Spartans forced a Sunday play-in game with West Allegheny by beating Penn Trafford, 7-3, on Monday night. Then in the play-in game, the Spartans won 6-4 to qualify.
· Thomas Jefferson — The Jaguars finished the regular season with a 5-3 win over North Catholic in Class A.
· Carrick — Carrick won twice, including a 3-2 overtime win over Ringgold, which ensured there will be no unbeaten teams in any of the four playoff brackets in the PIHL. Carrick then defeated Elizabeth Forward, 8-3, on Thursday night.