Stewart’s 7 points lead Burrell to PIHL Division II 1st-round victory over Trinity

Monday, March 4, 2019 | 11:34 PM

After Tyler Stewart skated around three Trinity players before depositing the puck into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the game midway through the third period, Burrell hockey coach Max Rickard said he looked at one of his assistant coaches and just shook his head.

Even after watching Stewart for the better part of three seasons he still finds ways to leave Rickard speechless.

“I said to one of my assistant coaches that it is unbelievable how Tyler Stewart can take the game in to his own hands on any given shift,” Rickard said. “The kid is top-end talent.”

Stewart’s five goals were a part of an impressive display of skill for top-seeded Burrell in a 10-2 victory over No. 8 Trinity Monday night in the first round of the PIHL Division II playoffs at Pittsburgh Ice Arena in New Kensington.

The Bucs (20-1) advanced to play the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between No. 4 Connellsville and No. 5 Carrick in the semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Monday at RMU Island Sports Center.

Stewart, who led the PIHL with 50 goals in the regular season, added two assists for a seven-point night. After working out the kinks from having nearly a month off between the final regular season game and Monday, Stewart and his teammates found their groove against a short-benched Trinity team.

“In the beginning of the game I felt a little rusty honestly, Stewart said. “but once we started picking up the pace and getting our chemistry going I felt like we played like we have been throughout the season. We had a good team effort.”

Trinity had only 10 skaters to Burrell’s 15.

The Hillers got a little zone time early, putting three of the first four shots on goal, but then Gio Palombo got the Bucs’ goal scoring party started.

Palombo found the puck in the defensive zone and skated coast to coast around a couple Hillers defenders before slipping the puck past goalie Jonathan Chopp with 13:40 remaining in the first period.

That was just an appetizer for some more high skill level goals to come.

Three minutes after Palombo’s goal, Stewart connected with Zelonka, who finished off a 2-on-1 break with a goal.

Then Zelonka scored his second a tip-in deflection off a shot-pass from Cole Vazzana with 6:55 remaining in the first and Stewart finished off the period by skating through three Trinity players in the final 30 seconds before sliding the puck past Chopp and into the net, making it 4-0.

The Bucs outshot the Hillers, 15-3, in the period.

“I thought we started off a little rusty in the beginning,” Rickard said. “We weren’t playing as a unit, and it was more individual hockey, but as the game went on we started jelling. Everyone got into the mix, and it turned out pretty well.”

Jonas Sopko got in on the fun, scoring from the point on the power play two minutes into the second. Stewart added another off a turnover and a feed from Palombo, and then Logan Scheopf scored after a long shift in the offensive zone.

About the only time Burrell was halted from having a ton of zone time was when part of the corner boards where the Zamboni enters the rink came apart in the second period.

Once play resumed after a 16-minute delay, Stewart went right back to scoring less than a minute after the game restarted.

Dax Cress and Corey Blommel scored third period goals for Trinity. Chopp had a spirited effort in goal, making 27 saves, including several acrobatic stops that kept Burrell from putting even more goals on the board. Drew Burkett made 12 stops for the Bucs.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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