Trib HSSN PIHL team of the week: Upper St. Clair

Sunday, February 23, 2020 | 9:34 PM

For the Upper St. Clair hockey team, the start to the season wasn’t great.

The Panthers, who moved up to Triple-A after a runner-up finish in Double-A last season, lost three of their first four games.

They quickly found the Triple-A game faster and more physical.

The Panthers turned it on towards the middle of the season, and of late have been playing high-quality hockey. In a crowded class, Upper St. Clair clinched the No. 2 seed in the postseason behind wins in seven of its last eight games, including two last week.

Upper St. Clair defeated Butler, 8-1, on Monday night and bested Pine-Richland, 5-3, later in the week.

The Butler game was a chance for a bounce back, according to Panthers coach Justin Becinski.

“We needed a game like that,” Becinski said. “The kids just came out flying, and it was good for all of our kids. They came out focused and ready to play.”

Becinski said the start was so good he was able to rotate his players a bit and use his JV goaltender for a portion of the game, as well.

The Panthers scored the first three goals of the game and the final five.

Mitchell Geinzer, who has had a solid season, scored a hat trick and assisted on three of the other five goals in the win. Colton Shiry had four points, including three assists. Jacob Ball, Mark McQuade, Kevin Finn and AJ Daley all scored a goal. Sam Sweet added an assist, as did Daley. Devin Rohrich assisted on two goals.

“Mitchell came out determined. He wants to show the league he can handle it in his first year playing varsity hockey,” Becinski said. “It’s made it helpful for us because we lost Anthony Carone from last year’s team. Mitchell’s whole line has stepped up big: he, Jacob Ball and Colton Shiry.”

Two of Geinzer’s three goals were short-handed.

Upper St. Clair defeated Pine-Richland, 5-3, on its senior night Thursday at the Ice Castle.

“The senior group has been leading it all year long, and they did that night. They wanted to make a statement,” Becinski said. “We knew Pine from last year, and we knew they would be hungry after we beat them the first time we played them.”

The game Thursday was much different in some senses from the win against Butler.

For starters, the Rams outshot Upper St. Clair, 39-24, on goal. Both teams scored at least two goals on the man advantage.

At 8 minutes, 21 seconds of the first, Rohrich scored on the power play from Andrew Woomer and Geinzer. Shiry scored with 36 seconds to play in the first to cap the scoring in the period. Geinzer and Ball assisted.

Pine-Richland scored 51 seconds into the second before Geinzer and Shiry had goals late in the period. Geinzer added the Panthers’ fifth goal on the power play before Pine-Richland scored the final two goals of the game.

The win clinched the second seed for Upper St. Clair.

Now the focus shifts to Canon-McMillan. Becinski said the Panthers will view the tilt as a playoff game.

“It starts with our leaders in the locker room,” Becinski said. “This will be a good test for us, and it could be anybody in the playoffs given what the standings look like behind us. We just want to keep it rolling.”

The Panthers play at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Canon-McMillan.

Honorable Mentions:

North Allegheny The Tigers clinched the top seed in Triple-A with a 7-3 win against Canon-McMillan on Monday. Despite the chance Upper St. Clair ties North Allegheny in points, the Tigers have a season sweep of the Panthers under their belt.

Mars The 4-1 win for the Fightin’ Planets against Hampton on Thursday puts them in a great spot to make the postseason in the Double-A Northwest Division. Meadville leads the division and is done at 18 points. With 17 points, Quaker Valley has a game against Mars remaining. The Planets also have a game with Moon, who is 2-14-1, remaining and are one point behind Quaker Valley.

Bishop McCort A 5-2 win Tuesday over Norwin clinched the Southeast Division title for Bishop McCort.

Kiski Area The Cavaliers won twice this past week and claimed the Northeast Division in Single-A in the process. Kiski Area defeated Wheeling Catholic, 7-1, on Tuesday and Freeport, 9-2, on Thursday night.

Indiana A 5-4 win against Fox Chapel on Tuesday clinched a spot in the Single-A playoffs.

RinggoldA 7-3 win over Bishop Canevin clinched the South Division title in Class B for the Rams on Monday. The Rams are undefeated with one game left, against Carrick.

Elizabeth Forward The Warriors clinched a playoff spot Monday with a 4-1 win over Connellsville.

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