Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Pine-Richland

Sunday, March 24, 2019 | 10:49 PM

Going into the season, Pine-Richland’s goal was to win a state championship.

In order to do that, the Rams needed to win a Penguins Cup at the Double-A level.

The Rams set their goal before finding out they would represent the PIHL in the USA Hockey Division 1 High School Nationals starting this upcoming weekend.

A week that started with championship aspirations ended with two Cup-raising moments. The Rams defeated Upper St. Clair on Monday to win the PIHL Double-A Penguins Cup title before beating two-time defending Pennsylvania Cup champion Downingtown East to win the program’s first state championship since 2007.

“It’s a switch in the mindset for sure,”coach Jordan Yoklic said after the Penguins Cup Championship. “You have to enjoy this win, but it’s like a 1B from a goal standpoint. The state title is a 1A. Winning a state championship is very special, and it means a lot. It’s great to win a PIHL title, but the state title is that much better.”

Yoklic won a state title as a player at Pine-Richland, so winning one as a coach helped cement that philosophy.

“This means a ton. Obviously the PIHL championship was huge, but this setting was huge,” Yoklic said after the state title win. “It’s always a state-championship mindset at Pine-Richland. This is a special thing, achieving our goal of a state championship.”

For its efforts, Pine-Richland, which did not lose a game in regulation all season, is this week’s TribLIVE High School Sports Network PIHL Team of the Week.

The Rams rode multiple two-goal efforts to win their fourth PIHL Penguins Cup championship Monday by defeating Upper St. Clair, 7-5, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

Despite giving up five power-play goals, junior goaltender Danny Stauffer made 34 saves.

Upper St. Clair took a lead by scoring the first goal on a shot from freshman forward Anthony Carone at 13 minutes, 35 seconds. Forty-nine seconds before the first period ended, Pine-Richland’s Joe Folmer tied the score with a power-play goal.

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead early in the second before the Rams scored the next two with one from Jared Eggert and another from captain and three-time all-star Will Studt. After Upper St. Clair tied the score 3-3, Pine-Richland’s Brandon Kashur gave the Rams a 4-3 lead that they took to the intermission. The Panthers got the first two tallies of the third to take a 5-4 lead before Pine-Richland scored the next three to seal the game.

“The game was a lot of back and forth, with a lot of lead changes,” Yoklic said. “I was proud of the boys that they kept fighting. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with the penalties, but Upper St. Clair took advantage of those opportunities. We knew the caliber of play we were going to deal with.”

Yoklic said his team’s depth was a big strength all season and especially in the PIHL Penguins Cup title game.

“In the tight games, you have to get to those ugly areas and it’s nice to see the results on offense, getting seven goals,” Yoklic said. “Our lines one to four, and even our defensemen, can really shoot the puck. The hard-working group that they are, they’re going to get the puck to the net and find the rebound.”

Eggert, Folmer and Studt scored two goals each, and Kashur added an assist. Richard Wild, Jack Tyndall, Brian Phipps, Brandon Will and Jack Carnovale had assists.

It was the fourth Penguins Cup title for the Rams and first since the team went back-to-back-to-back since 2006-08.

Saturday’s Pennsylvania Cup championship pit the Rams against two-time defending champ Downingtown East, which had defeated its crosstown rival, Downingtown West, to win its third straight Flyers Cup championship.

The Rams hadn’t won a state title since 2007, having lost to LaSalle College in 2008 in their last appearance.

Pine-Richland suffocated Downingtown East early and adjusted the penalty kill from Monday night. The result was a 3-for-3 night for the PK en route to defeating the Cougars 3-0.

Just 1:03 in, Phipps scored on a redirect of a shot by defenseman Jack Tyndall. It turned out to be all the Rams would need as the defensive effort stellar goaltending from Stauffer made the difference in the PIHL’s only win in the three games at Robert Morris.

The Rams added goals from Studt in the second and Nick Lindauer with four seconds left into an empty net for insurance.

“It was a simple game. Obviously, when you play in a state championship it’s two good teams,” Yoklic said. “The fight we had all year showed, and we were more disciplined. We tightened some things up, too, and at the end of the night, we ended up with a shutout so a lot of the credit goes to the D-core and Danny.”

Stauffer made 24 saves for his first playoff shutout. The junior and two-time all-star had two shutouts during the regular season to go along with his 1.68 goals-against average, which was the best mark in Double-A for goalies who were regulars.

“Danny and the defensemen are unbelievable. The five guys back there, and Danny being the sixth, what they do is incredible,” Yoklic said. “They make it easier on our breakout, they get pucks to the net and they did a great job all year.”

Stauffer gave a lot of credit to his defensemen playing “insane” in front of him, mentioning their ability to lock down and make the chances easier to stop.

“(This feeling) is amazing. Words can’t describe it,” said Stauffer. “Just playing with these boys, having this situation and outcome is just amazing.”

The Rams turn their attention to nationals, which begin Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio.

This team, which went wire-to-wire from the St. Margaret’s preseason tournament to winning the state championship, will take the ice for the final time as a group.

“Having this opportunity feels like we deserve it,” Yoklic said. “I’m glad we took care of this because if we had gone there after falling short of our goal, it would have been different.”

It’s a group that includes 14 seniors whom Yoklic said have made a significant impact on the Rams’ program.

“It’s an unbelievable group. I love those guys,” Yoklic said. “Coming into the program eight or nine years ago as a coach, I’ve seen those guys grow over the years and they are a special group. Our captains, even all 14 of them, even if they weren’t in the lineup, have their heads on straight. The commitment that they have on and off the ice is special. I couldn’t be more proud.”

PIHL Honorable Mentions (Week of March 18):

Ringgold, last week’s PIHL Team of the Week, defeated Burrell in Monday’s Division 2 championship game, 4-3. The Rams scored with 3:01 left in the game on a goal from Justin Day to win the program’s third PIHL title. Noah Schroeder scored two goals, and Brad Bujdos tallied a goal and an assist. Goaltender Evan Cook made 33 saves on 36 shots faced.

• In Single-A, Montour defeated South Fayette, 6-3, to win the team’s first Penguins Cup title Tuesday. The Spartans raced to a 3-0 lead and never looked back, getting a two-goal, one-assist effort from senior captain Ritchy Froehlich Jr. in the win. Montour lost 11-3 in the Pennsylvania Cup title game to now six-time defending champion Rustin.

• In Triple-A, North Allegheny defeated top-seed Peters Township in Tuesday night’s AAA Penguins Cup championship 3-0. Richie Karapandi earned a 23-save shutout, and Aaron Miller scored twice. The Tigers won their third Penguins Cup. NA then lost to LaSalle, 6-3, in the state championship game Saturday. Two empty-net goals gave the score a bit more cushion after it was close and back and forth all day. Miller scored two more goals, and Karapandi made 39 saves in the loss.

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