Trib HSSN PIHL Player of the Week: Week ending March 15, 2020

Monday, March 16, 2020 | 11:06 AM

Sophomore forward Nathan Boulanger hasn’t been with the Ringgold Rams all season.

He joined the Class B co-op team in December and accrued enough games played to be eligible for the postseason for the Rams, who reached the championship round largely because of his efforts in Monday’s semifinal against Elizabeth Forward.

The Rams don’t know when or if they will have the chance to defend their championship from last season, as the PIHL announced Thursday that it is following the PIAA’s move and suspending all league-sanctioned games for at least two weeks.

They also will not get to play in the USA Hockey Nationals, which at the time of the win Monday was still a consideration for the Rams. Now it’s not due to concerns over the coronavirus.

So it’s a good thing Boulanger has several more friends on the team after Monday’s game, as coach Rick Kalinowski put it.

Boulanger scored three times after Ringgold fell behind 5-3, as the Rams won 6-5 in overtime to advance. That was on top of an assist on the first goal of the night.

“So it’s kind of funny. He came in pretty late in the season, and when I say late, I mean later in 2019,” Kalinowski said. “It’s hard coming in like that when you don’t know anybody. I think he has a lot more friends now.”

Ringgold had scored the first three goals of the game before “all heck broke loose.”

The Rams gave up a power-play marker before Evan Eberlein was ejected as part of a play that accumulated 17 penalty minutes for the star forward. It included a five-minute major, on which the Warriors tied the game. Elizabeth Forward then scored two more on the man-advantage to take a 5-3 lead.

That’s when Boulanger took over.

He scored a power-play goal on assists from Justin Day and Nathan Todd at 11:59 of the second period. Then he scored 3:21 into the third off a faceoff win and feed by Zach Kalinowski.

After the rest of the period was played without a goal, it took just 55 seconds for Boulanger to score on a breakaway, on which he took off with speed and lifted a shot top shelf.

“It obviously put us in a better spot,” Kalinowski said. “He put it in another gear and played in a bunch of different situations. The faceoff goal was a great play, and that overtime goal, he was able to find another gear and put it over the goaltender’s shoulder.”

The overtime goal allowed the Rams to continue to defend their championship. It’s just a matter of when and if they’ll do battle with Carrick for the Class B crown.

Until then, Kalinowski said Boulaner and his teammates will continue to get practice as much as they can to stay prepared, something he’s even talked with Carrick coach Chris Serakowski about.

It’s a waiting game, but the Rams have Boulanger to thank for being afforded the opportunity to play again, at least to a degree.

Honorable Mention

Billy Siemon (Elizabeth Forward) — The sophomore goaltender made 37 saves in the Warriors’ overtime loss to Ringgold. Besides the power-play unit, which scored five times for Elizabeth Forward, Siemon was the reason the Warriors had a shot against the high-powered Rams’ offense.

Jacob Fetzer (Carrick) — Fetzer scored two goals and had two assists in Carrick’s come-from-behind win against Neshannock. Fetzer’s winning goal came at 2:34 of the overtime period.

Ben Nettleton (Indiana) — Nettleton scored two goals and had an assist in Indiana’s win over Kiski, which was the first in three tries against the Cavaliers this season and put Indiana in Class A’s title game.

Mason Smith and Caleb Karnell (Wheeling Catholic) — Smith had four goals and two helpers while Karnell had a hat trick and two apples in a loss to Wheeling Park in nonplayoff action between the two Wheeling schools.

Tyler Weekley (Wheeling Park) — In the aforementioned nonplayoff game, Weekley scored four times and assisted on two other goals as Wheeling Park won, 12-8.

Joe Behler (Hempfield) — Behler made 41 saves in Hempfield’s 3-2 loss to Latrobe in the semifinals Wednesday.

Danny Mitchell (Mars) — The senior netminder made 42 saves in his team’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Baldwin.

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