Top scorer carries Ringgold into PIHL Division 2 finals matchup with Bishop Canevin

Thursday, March 16, 2023 | 11:29 PM

There were times in the regular season where it seemed like Ringgold forward Kenneth Cadwallader was scoring goals for fun.

He ended up being the PIHL Division 2 goals leader with 36, and he’s still having a blast putting the puck in the net in the postseason.

Cadwallader scored a pair of goals and helped the Rams secure a spot in the D2 championship game with a 3-2 win over Deer Lakes in the semifinals Thursday at RMU Island Sports Center.

Cadwallader has five goals in two playoff games.

The Rams (15-4-1) advanced to play Bishop Canevin in the D2 final at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“I’m just so proud of them,” Ringgold coach Rick Kalinowski said. “This is our sixth straight trip to the semifinals. We’ve lost in the semis. We’ve made the finals, and there was the one year where we made it and covid ended up shutting it down. I’m just so happy for everyone on our team. We got a little sloppy at the end with some penalties, but we pulled it out.

“Kenny got the first two for us tonight and did a great job. Everyone did a great job.”

Deer Lakes (17-3) took the lone regular season meeting 4-3 on Nov. 17, but Thursday’s rematch belonged to Ringgold from the start.

Cadwallader’s first goal came five minutes in when he took a pass from Noah Levander and used some nifty stickwork to weave through the slot before backhanding a shot past Lancers goalie Ben Korol.

“He’s a really good hockey player,” Deer Lakes coach Jonathan Merlo said. “We knew he was going to have an impact, but we didn’t know it would be so early. It’s hard to shut down a kid that has so much skill like he does. I thought overall we did a good job, but there were some lapses that cost us.”

The Rams appeared to score a goal early in the second when Trent Hawk slammed a one-timer into the back of the cage, but it was ruled the net was dislodged prior to the puck crossing the goal line.

That ended up becoming moot, because a few minutes later, Hawk put a shot off Korol’s pads and the puck bounced right to the stick of Cadwallader, who buried it to make it 2-0.

Less than a minute later, Kobie Kirich tapped home a goal during a scrum in front of the net, increasing the lead to 3-0.

“The guys could’ve got upset (with the disallowed goal), but they didn’t. They just kept going,” Kalinowski said.

Deer Lakes was awarded a 5-on-3 power play with just over three minutes remaining in the second after Caden Doran and Steven Macheska were sent to the penalty box 47 seconds apart. The Rams killed off both penalties.

The Lancers have been a third-period team all year, sporting a plus-40 goal differential, and they were again Thursday.

It was nearly enough to claw back into it.

Mark Rauenswinter got the Lancers on the board with seven minutes remaining .He came out of the box after serving a kneeing minor and immediately drove the net. AJ Schaaf put a puck on goal and Rauenswinter deflected it in just under the crossbar.

Moments after the goal, Deer Lakes was awarded a sixth power play for a Braden Pringle roughing minor, but Moffett made three saves to help the Rams kill it off.

Jack Nacey scored for Deer Lakes with the goalie pulled with 15.6 seconds remaining, but the Rams held on for the final few seconds to secure the victory.

“It’s a testament to their belief that they can play with anyone,” Merlo said of the late comeback attempt. “The first two periods were not our best hockey. We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes and that wasn’t our style. We were a little too tight. I think going into the third period, they started to realize that they could play with them. I’m proud of them for staying with it and making it a close game.”

Moffett made 36 saves. Korol stopped 21 shots.

Bishop Canevin 4, Connellsville 1

The Crusaders advanced to the D2 finals for the second consecutive season with a win over the Falcons in the first game of the doubleheader.

Ryan Saginaw, Ty Serakowski, Michael Parzynski II and Brian Kalanish scored for Bishop Canevin.

Saginaw got things going with a goal off a pass from Ben Ondredjko 10 minutes into the first period.

Titan Berkerleg got the equalizer for Connellsville on the power play 22 seconds into the second, but Serakowski responded seven seconds later to put the Crusaders back in front.

Parzynski added a power-play goal late in the second, and Kalanish got an insurance marker in the third.

Jonathan Holland made 40 saves in net for the Falcons. Ayden Worstell stopped 20 shots for the Crusaders.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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