Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Connellsville

Sunday, February 17, 2019 | 7:39 PM

Connellsville needed a response after last week’s loss to Carrick, having had a chance to clinch a home game in the Division 2 playoffs in that game.

The scenario stood as Connellsville welcomed Burrell, the PIHL’s final unbeaten team, to Ice Mine on Tuesday. The Bucs, Division 2’s top scoring team, which, to that point, had 150 goals, met the Falcons, D2’s top-defensive team. Connellsville had allowed only 38 goals in 17 prior games.

Their 6-2 win earned the Falcons that first-round home game and this week’s honors as the TribLIVE High School Sports Network PIHL Team of the Week.

“We wanted to contain their top guys and play a solid defensive game,” Connellsville coach Ray Brown said. “We talked at the beginning of the season about what we wanted to accomplish, and we know we can beat these better teams. It always nice to spoil a team’s perfect record.”

The Falcons scored the only goal of the first period with an even-strength tally from Ryan Brown, the third-leading scorer in Division 2.

Nic Capuzzi scored to make it 2-0 just 2 minutes, 30 seconds into the second period before Burrell’s Cole Vazzanna scored to cut the lead in half. Brown scored again to make it 3-1 at 12:05 in the second.

Connellsville’s Greg Hensh then scored the next three goals, with Brown assisting on two, before Burrell’s Dylan Zelonka scored the final goal of the game late, making the final 6-2.

The game featured 36 penalty minutes, with Connellsville scoring twice in five power-play chances. Burrell was 0 for 7 on the power play.

“It was one of those games where we got out to an early lead, and that was important. We knew if we got out in front we could make them come at us and play our game,” Brown said. “We took a lot of penalties, but we were able to shut down their power play.”

Ryan Brown had two goals and two assists, and Hensh added the hat trick. The two have been playing together for a long time, Ray Brown said.

Ryan has 32 goals, the second-highest total in D2, to go with 21 assists. Hensh is sixth in D2 in points with 16 goals and 21 assists.

“They’ll go into high-traffic areas, and they have the playmaking abilities to find each other,” Brown said. “They’re also my two best penalty killers, and they were able to stick to their gameplan the other night despite being on the ice a lot.”

Connellsville goalie Sebastian Skarzenski stopped 37 shots, and, Brown said, was excellent in keeping rebound opportunities limited.

“He stepped up and playing extremely well,” Brown said. “When he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it, and our defense helped him to be able to see the puck. When Burrell did get its chances, he was able to make stops and force faceoffs.”

Skarzenski’s 2.05 GAA is the best in Division 2.

Connellsville still has two games left before the Division 2 playoffs begin. The Falcons host Central Valley on Tuesday before traveling to play Knoch on Feb. 25.

They will enter the D2 postseason after that as the two, three or four seed.

“We’ve had some success on the power play, but it’s been hit or miss. We need to stay consistent with that and stay out of the box,” Brown said. “Other than that, we just need to stick to our defensive game. We’re playing really well.”

PIHL Honorable Mentions (week of Feb. 11):

Elsewhere in Division 2, McDowell’s 4-3 overtime win over Trinity kept it alive for a D2 playoff spot, though the hill remains steep. Neshannock clinched a home game Monday with a win over Knoch.

Moon stayed alive to get the three seed and avoid a 4/5 inter-conference play-in game in Class AA by defeating Hampton, 1-0, on Thursday. Baldwin’s win against Upper St. Clair allowed the Highlanders to clinch a playoff spot. Baldwin was 2-0 during the week.

In Class AAA, Bethel Park kept alive its hopes of securing the No. 1 seed by defeating Mt. Lebanon, which is locked as the No. 4 seed, 10-1 on Thursday night.

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