Thomas Jefferson captures 5th Penguins Cup title with big 2nd period

Monday, March 18, 2024 | 9:21 PM

It took Thomas Jefferson a while to find the mark in the PIHL Class 2A Penguins Cup championship game Monday, but once it did, a feisty Penn-Trafford squad couldn’t keep up.

The Jaguars, the second seed in the tournament, scored five goals during the final 9 minutes, 51 seconds of the second period and rallied to defeat the underdog Warriors, 8-4, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Penn-Trafford had reached the final by stunning No. 1 South Fayette in the first round of the playoffs and then knocking off No. 4 Norwin in the semifinals. It was the Warriors’ first trip to the final.

Thomas Jefferson was too quick and a lot smoother than Penn-Trafford and pelted Warriors goalie Tyler Funk with 30 shots through two periods.

This is Thomas Jefferson’s fifth Class 2A title and second since 2022. The other three came from 1998-2000.

Despite being outshot 10-2 to begin the game, Penn-Trafford grabbed a 1-0 lead when Chase Bonson connected on a power-play goal with 5:58 left in the opening period.

Thomas Jefferson tied the score 1-1 with 22 seconds left when Andrew Oliver chipped in a rebound in the crease.

Penn-Trafford grabbed a 2-1 lead early in the second period when T.J. Ferguson slapped in a shot with 14:25 left.

“It wasn’t easy,” Thomas Jefferson coach John Zeiler said. “We dominated play early, and they took a 1-0 lead on a power play. It’s never easy in the playoffs. It’s a whole different game in the playoffs.

“I like how we kept battling back, and we never quit. We shut down their attack, and we kept cycling. We wore them down. But it was frustrating, and they had us doubting ourselves.”

But Thomas Jefferson was relentless and took advantage of a Penn-Trafford mistake to tie the score when Scott Allan chipped the puck past Funk at 9:51.

Less than two minutes later, Allan took a feed from Nathan Weiss and backhanded the puck past Funk at 7:54 for a 3-2 lead.

“When I scored two goals back-to-back it got us going,” Allan said. “After that second goal, we kept going. We put the pedal down.”

Thomas Jefferson then scored three goals during the next 1:32 to take a 6-2 lead. Oliver scored his second of the game at 2:35, Lucas Blose tallied with 1:20 left and Jake Stock concluded the run with 53 seconds left.

“I thought we played a little tight early in the game,” Penn-Trafford coach Chris Cerutti said. “Once we got that power-play goal, we seemed to relax. But I think we got tired legs in the second period.

“But I give the players credit. They didn’t roll over, they kept battling and we got it to within two goals. I’m proud of them.”

Penn-Trafford came out flying in the third period, and Bonson scored with 15:36 left to make it 6-3.

The Warriors had a couple more chances, but TJ goalie Ronnie Porupsky made a big saves.

Penn-Trafford refused to quit and cut the lead to 6-4 when Aiden Drotos put in a rebound with 4:46 left.

“I got a little nervous even to the end,” Zeiler said. “They got to within two goals and if we don’t get that empty-netter, you never know if they get one. My heart was pumping.”

Thomas Jefferson’s then iced the game in the final 2:08 on goals by Stock. The first one was an empty-netter.

It was Stock’s second consecutive hat trick, and he has seven goals in the playoffs.

Thomas Jefferson heads to the state championship Saturday at Haverford.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at

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