South Fayette shuts out Armstrong to capture 1st Penguins Cup championship

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 10:30 PM

Armstrong came into the PIHL Class 2A Penguins Cup championship game as the top-seeded team in the tournament, having scored 19 goals in its two playoff wins.

Armstrong had also won two previous titles, the last coming in 2018.

None of that mattered to second-seeded South Fayette. The Lions scored two goals in a span of 2 minutes, 52 seconds in the second period and made the lead stand up, shutting out Armstrong, 2-0, to win their first Penguins Cup championship.

South Fayette coach Matt Schwartz said getting to this point was the goal when he took over the program.

“(Assistant coach Christian Hanson) and I started coaching this team four years ago, and this was our goal when we took the job,” he said. “The boys really came through for us. I’m so proud of our guys. This is why you play. That’s why we told our guys that at the beginning of the year.”

The game was scoreless until less than five minutes remained in the second period.

Sophomore Tyler Brandebura gained the zone down the right wing and headed toward Armstrong’s Dylan Morris. As the puck bounced toward the net, Morris reached for it, but Brandebura, a sophomore, knocked it out of the air and into the net for his first goal of the playoffs at 12:28.

“It was kind of a broken play,” Schwartz said. “Tyler won a 50-50 battle and he batted the puck out of the air in a dirty area.”

At 15:20, the hottest Lion continued his tear as sophomore Trevor Dalessandro scored his fifth postseason goal. Dalesandro was battling for the puck at the near post and was able to bat it past Morris and just across the goal line to give the Lions a 2-0 lead.

“Again, that’s another 10th grader going to the dirty areas,” Schwartz said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of how hard this team worked.”

Dalesandro scored eight goals in 19 regular season games.

“I’ve been really working hard recently,” Dalesandro said. “My linemates have set me up to be able to get pucks on net. (The goal) was just a rebound and I found a little opening on the goalie, and I just tried to shovel it in the net.”

The Lions defense and senior goaltender Allen Schraeder did the rest, killing off some early third-period penalty time and holding Armstrong to seven shots in the period. Schraeder made 22 saves to post the shutout.

“This feels great,” Schraeder said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They got pucks in deep. They were blocking shots and giving their bodies up in front of me.”

“Allen’s been outstanding,” Schwartz said. “ I think he probably played his three best games in the last three games. He was fantastic again, and he made big saves at key times.”

Armstrong’s season ends at 19-4 after suffering just its second loss in 14 games.

“We were playing a really good hockey team tonight,” Schwartz said. “They compete and they made it extremely tough on us. It could have gone either way, but I’m glad we came out on the right side of it.”

South Fayette (16-3-2) heads to Robert Morris’ Island Sports Center on Saturday in search of the program’s first Pennsylvania Cup.

Schwartz and Hanson are both Peters Township graduates who won Penguins Cup and Pennsylvania Cup Championships as players. The pair saw their alma mater capture its eighth Penguins Cup title Monday.

“I’m really proud of (Peters Township) and coach (Rick) Tingle,” Schwartz said. “The championships we won at Peters is something that we talked about with our guys. We’re hoping to build our program at South Fayette into something similar to what Peters has done.”

Dalesandro is looking forward to the opportunity Saturday.

“I’m excited to be part of the first South Fayette team to play in the state finals and try to bring that cup home,” he said. “We’re a hard-working team and we compete and try to make it hard to play against us.”

The Lions will face the Flyers Cup Class 2A champions, Pennsbury, which defeated Pennridge, 5-3. Faceoff is set for 2 p.m. on Neville Island. Pennsbury won its only PA Cup in 1985.

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