Trib HSSN PIHL Player of the Week: North Allegheny goalie Richie Karapandi

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Sunday, March 17, 2019 | 11:30 PM


It was as if there was a brick wall between the pipes for North Allegheny in Thursday’s double-overtime win over third-seeded Bethel Park.

Except that the brick wall was, arguably, Class AAA’s best goaltender in 2018-19: senior Richie Karapandi. The PIHL All- Star goalie posted a .936 save percentage, three shutouts and a 1.67 goals-against average — all Class AAA bests — during the regular season.

After junior forward Will Parreaguirre fired a wrist shot past Nick Guimond, the Bethel Park goalie, in the second overtime of Thursday’s semifinal, he became the hero. Karapandi did more than his fair share, though.

With help from his defensive corps, he stopped 53 of the 54 shots he faced from a furious Black Hawks attack.

The only goal came on a 5-on-3 opportunity for Bethel Park in the second period, and off a rebound.

Karapandi and the Tigers will play Peters Township for the Class AAA Penguins Cup championship Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

“Obviously when you stop 50-plus shots, you had a really good game. He’s focused right now, and it’s just been awesome,” North Allegheny fifth-year coach Mike Bagnato said. “The guys in front of Richie have been a big reason why he’s had success, too, and he’ll tell you that. They’re all just so comfortable together.”

After the game, which ended at 12:40 a.m. Friday morning as a result of the preceding game also going to double overtime, Karapandi said he was exhausted but was trying to stay in the game however he could.

“We played a great all-around game and worked hard enough to get that last goal,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited to play for the championship. We’ve worked so hard all year.”

Even Jim McVay, the longtime Bethel Park coach, said Karapandi stole the game.

“Our team gave everything it had,” McVay said. “It doesn’t result in a win everytime you do that, unfortunately. Their goalie won them the game.”

Now the Tigers will play for a championship and will need good goaltending to do it.

“You can’t win championships if your goalie doesn’t play well,” Bagnato said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that, and it’s especially true in the division we play in with how competitive it is. We’ve been playing well in all ends, but if a mistake does happen, Richie makes the save.”

The reason for Karapandi’s success isn’t just good positioning and a high hockey IQ. It also is a strong group of senior defensemen who block shots, get in shooting and passing lanes and is, arguably, Class AAA’s best unit.

“He’s not the biggest kid, but he stands tall and he’s always in the right position,” Bagnato said. “He waits to go down at the right time, too. He’s really smart at how he goes about everything.”

Karapandi describes himself as a technically sound goalie who stays calm in pressure situations.

“I am good with the movements and like to be in position most of the time,” he said. “I’m not always trying to make the crazy saves like some goalies do. I just want to make it easier on myself if I can, but when the crazy saves do happen, obviously, that’s great.”

The seniors who make up defense are Tyler Duderstadt, Justin Symons, Nate Heil and Luke Turkovich.

“I think from the defense back to the goaltending — and, obviously, we have several good forwards — that’s the strength of our team,” Bagnato said. “I would put those guys against anybody in the entire league.”

Bagnato also said it helps to have a good group that has chemistry.

“We have a lot of good kids on this team, and Richie is one of them,” he said. “He’s a kid that is a captain without a ‘C.’ We can’t have goalies as captains, but, make no mistake about it, he’s one of the leaders of the team and the guys look for him.

“Richie is like the rest of the group. It’s just a good group of kids. I hope, for their enjoyment, we’re able to find a way to win Tuesday.

PIHL Honorable Mentions (Week Of March 11):

Elsewhere in Class AAA, Guimond stopped 29 of the 31 shots he faced in the two-OT loss to North Allegheny. In the other semifinal, Peters Township goalie Alex Wilbert stopped 31 of 33 shots on goal, and Mt. Lebanon’s Bradley Weaver made 41 saves while allowing three goals in the loss for the Blue Devils.

In Class AA, Pine-Richland’s William Studt and Charlie Mill had a goal and an assist, and Danny Stauffer made 14 saves on 16 shots on goal in a win over Greater Latrobe that advanced the Rams to the title game. In the other semi, Franklin Regional got solid performances from Trent Lunden (one goal and three helpers) and Olda Virag (four goals) in a 9-8 overtime loss to Upper St. Clair. For USC, Quinn Giacobbe had four goals and two apples, and Devin Rohrich had two goals and two assists.

In Class A, Thomas Jefferson’s Hayden Hintemeyer had a goal and an assist in a loss to Montour, which received two goals and an assist from Ryan Eisel. For South Fayette, Bruce Hardman made 31 saves on 32 shots on goal in a win over West Allegheny. For the Indians, goaltender Josh Ferry made 26 saves on 28 chances.

In Division 2, Burrell got two goals and two assists from Gio Palombo, and Dylan Zelonka had a goal and two assists in the Bucs’ 5-2 win. Burrell’s Andrew Burkett made 26 saves on 28 opportunities. A 19-save shutout from Ringgold’s Evan Cook helped the Rams to a championship berth in D2.

All four of the championship games will be broadcast on the TribLIVE High School Sports Network at tribhssn.triblive.com. Monday’s action starts at with the Division 2 championship that takes place before the Class AA Penguins Cup championship, which is slated for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Single-A Penguins Cup Championship is scheduled for 6 p.m., with the Triple-A game to follow.

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