Pine-Richland hockey caps special season with 4th state championship

Sunday, March 31, 2024 | 11:01 AM

Winning a state championship is obviously special on its own, but the way the Pine-Richland hockey team did so will be retold over and over again.

Down a goal in the final two minutes, Josh Lanyard scored to tie the game and send it to overtime against favored LaSalle.

Then, AJ Verszyla scored in overtime to finish off a whirlwind ending to a 5-4 victory in the Class 3A state championship game March 23 in West Chester.

The rally came after the Rams squandered a 3-0 lead. Getting through the adversity and coming out on top for the program’s fourth state title put an exclamation point on a special season.

“To do it in that fashion in a state final out in Philadelphia against a great LaSalle team…there’s no better feeling than that,” Rams coach Jordan Yoklic said. “All the hard work and dedication the boys put in and all the families and friends and all the support that goes into it paid off at the end of the day. I couldn’t be happier for them and the Pine-Richland community.”

Lanyard’s game-tying goal finished off a hat trick in the state final and an impressive run in Pine-Richland’s biggest games. He scored nine goals in the regular season, but came up big in the postseason.

He scored the go-ahead goal in the Penguins Cup semifinal against Peters Township, giving him four in the last three games.

“He’s absolutely clutch,” Yoklic said. “He’s a performer and a competitor. He deserves all the success he’s achieved. In my book he’s a (PIHL) All-Star and Player of the Month caliber player. He’s a guy that’s flown under the radar, but he’s an absolute leader on our team. One of the most coachable players I’ve come across.”

Verszyla’s game-winner came after he had some penalty trouble. Colten Andrighetti had a similar experience in the Penguins Cup final, before scoring the game-winning goal.

Yoklic was impressed with the composure Verszyla, a junior, showed throughout.

“You’re doing everything you can to help the team and end up with a bit of adversity, but the response from AJ was great,” Yoklic said. “It was over and done with and back to work for the next opportunity. Then, there it was. The puck was laying there. He was in the right spot, hungry to be around the net and found a way to put it in to seal the deal.”

Andrighetti had a goal and Cullen Campbell registered three assists in the state championship.

After the game the team celebrated with some pizza at the hotel before making the trip back to Gibsonia.

It was the first state championship win for the Rams since 2019, which is also the last time they won a PIHL Penguins Cup. Pine-Richland has been close since, but is now back at the summit of Pennsylvania high school hockey.

“It’s a huge accomplishment and I’m really proud of the boys,” Yoklic said. “To beat Bethel Park, Peters Township, North Allegheny and go out and play a great LaSalle program…those are organizations with a lot of history and hardware, so by no means was that an easy task. That’s what makes it so special.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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