Sewickley Academy scores early, often in win against Deer Lakes

Monday, January 8, 2018 | 11:45 PM

The Deer Lakes hockey team hoped to improve its playoff positioning in PIHL Class A Monday when it hosted Sewickley Academy at Frozen Pond in Valencia.

The Lancers built momentum before the holiday break with a big win over Blackhawk and were looking for a good start to 2018.

But the visiting Panthers had other ideas. They jumped out to a big first-period lead — Sewickley Academy scored on its first five shots — en route to an 8-3 victory.

“We just told the guys to stay positive after the first period and keep hustling, and they did that,” Deer Lakes coach Todd Luniewski said. “We came back and played even in the second and third periods. We generated some nice scoring chances. They never gave up.”

The flu bug hit several Lancers players over the past several days, and Luniewski said they were battling the effects in Monday's game.

“We had taped water bottles for the ones who have been sick and untaped ones for the other guys,” Luniewski said.

“But there are no excuses. The guys fought hard with all they had. Sewickley is a good team with a lot of talented skaters.”

Regular starting goaltender Christian Long missed the game because of the flu. Brandon Loncaric played in his second game of the season and made 13 saves on 21 shots.

“We told Brandon to keep his head, keep focused and stay positive,” Luniewski said. “After the first period, I thought he did well. He made some nice saves after he settled in. He hadn't played in a while.”

Deer Lakes fell to 6-6 and remained at 12 points in the standings, tied with Norwin and Kiski Area for 11th place. The top 12 teams qualify for the Penguins Cup playoffs in Class A.

Norwin (6-7) was scheduled to play Monday, but the Knights' game with Wheeling Park was postponed because of inclement weather.

Kiski (6-7) lost to South Fayette, 5-2, on Monday.

Deer Lakes has eight games remaining in the regular season, and the home stretch continues next Monday at Wheeling Central Catholic.

“Nothing has changed for us,” Luniewski said. “We wanted this one, but we are still looking to win some hockey games and getting up in a solid playoff spot. We're on the edge, so we have to keep fighting the rest of the way. But the guys are excited to see what we can do.”

Sewickley Academy improved to 9-3 and moved into a four-way tie for fourth place with Indiana, Thomas Jefferson and Westmont Hilltop.

“We had talked about getting a little quicker start in games, and I was pleased we were able to do that (Monday),” Panthers coach Chris Chiusano said. “We knew we weren't facing their top goalie, but we still were able to do some nice things to put Deer Lakes on its heels.”

Michael Hertzberg tallied a natural hat trick in the first period and added scores on the power play and shorthanded to finish with five goals. He has 21 goals this season.

Matthew Hajdukiewicz added two goals in the first, and Ben Mohan scored early in the third period as the Panthers built a 7-0 lead.

Deer Lakes, which finished with a 28-21 shot advantage, got on the board with 6 minutes, 46 seconds left in the third as Pietro Porco scored on a booming shot near the blue line off an assist from Shane Miller.

The Lancers, who had 22 shots combined in the second and third periods, added two more goals as Porco and Dylan George found the back of the net. Miller, Camden Smith and Luke Norkus provided assists on those scores.

Miller's two assists give him a team-best 11 for the season.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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