South Fayette celebrates 1st Pennsylvania Cup championship

Saturday, March 25, 2023 | 6:53 PM

On a special day for hockey all across the Commonwealth, special teams were extra special in the Class 2A Pennsylvania Cup championship game between Penguins Cup champion South Fayette and Flyers Cup champion Pennsbury.

The teams combined for three power-play goals and three short-handed goals through two periods.

South Fayette scored two goals, 1 minute, 13 seconds apart, then added an empty netter for a 7-4 victory and its first state hockey championship.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it before,” South Fayette coach Matt Schwartz said of the special teams impact.

Both teams were searching for a first in this championship game. The Falcons (18-7-0) were seeking their first Pennsylvania Cup since 1985 as a member of Class 2A.

The Lions (19-3-2) won their first Penguins Cup five days ago and were looking to double up with their first state championship.

The game started with Pennsbury getting the first chances against Lions goaltender Allen Schraeder. Brendan MacAnish capitalized on a rebound from a shot by Logan Doyle to get the game’s first goal 13:40 into the first period.

South Fayette returned the favor with a few chances, and drew two penalties on Pennsbury for a 5-on-3.

Much like their semifinal of the Penguins Cup playoffs, the Lions gave up a short-handed opportunity in that situation. Justin Marlin and Macanish combined on a 2-on-1 to make it 2-0 for the eastern Pa. champions.

The Lions countered back on the same power-play with goals less than a minute apart by Nolan Murphy and Tyler Brandebura to even the score at 2-2.

“We stuck to the process,” Schwartz said. “We saw an opportunity to get one back.”

Soon after, South Fayette answered with its own short-handed goal as a blocked shot by Dylan Walsh sprung Jackson Brandebura and Braydon Reighard for a 2-on-1 that Reighard finished for the Lions’ first lead of the game with 2:31 left in the first.

South Fayette then got a goal off a turnover from one of its top scorers, Wes Schwarzmiller, to take a 4-2 lead.

“Our game plan was to get as many pucks on the net as possible,” Schwarzmiller said.

The Falcons would not go away. While on the power-play, Marlin picked up the puck after his initial shot hit off teammate Logan Doyle and dispatched a backhander that found a way past Schraeder at 9:40 of the second.

MacAnish picked up his second assist of the game, and then he scored Pennsbury’s second short-handed goal and his second. The senior blocked Brayden Imler’s shot and had a breakaway from his defensive blueline to tie the score once more at 4-4 at 1:01 in the second.

“He’s showed why he’s the guy,” Pennsbury coach Ryan Daley said. “He will go down as one of the best players to come through the program.”

He had two goals and four points in the game and finished his season with 75 points.

Going into the third period, both teams knew only blatant penalties would be called. All six infractions were called before intermission.

“We were expecting 5-on-5 play,” Schwarz said. “We got pucks deep and stuck to the process.”

There was a little weathering of the storm for the Lions as Schraeder made a big save on a clean opportunity in the slot. Last year’s third-stringer quelled most Pennsbury threats as he saved 29 on 33 shots.

“Coach trusted me the whole way through the end of the season,” Schraeder said. “We had a little rough streak, but once the playoffs kicked in, so did I.”

His counterpart on the other side, Aaron McDaniel was able to make big stops, too, with 29 saves on 35 shots.

The game-winning goal was just too tough to stop. Schwartzmiller, after hitting the crossbar on a faceoff earlier in the third, took a wrist shot from just below the left circle on a sharp angle and buried it high over the glove to give South Fayette a 5-4 lead with 2:57 remaining.

“I had that shot twice throughout the game, and I thought I’ll give it another go,” Schwartzmiller said. “It was the most exciting moment of the game for me. I wasn’t expecting it to go in.”

Then, Murphy scored 1:26 later from the left dot to the same high glove for the insurance marker for the Lions.

“That fifth one was unstoppable,” Daley said. “We started pressing, it’s tough, but it’s the kind of risk you take when you’re down.”

Brayden Imler secured the championship with an empty-netter for South Fayette with a minute remaining.

“Just couldn’t be prouder of our guys and how they’ve competed,” Schwartz said. “They bought in and did everything we asked. I couldn’t be prouder.”


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