Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Week ending March 8, 2020

Sunday, March 8, 2020 | 8:44 PM

In Class AAA’s Penguins Cup Playoffs, each game was decided by three goals or fewer.

Ask any coach in the classification, there is parity. The cliche that anybody can beat anybody on any given night echoes in the classification.

Tuesday, the biggest upset in terms of seeding in any of the four classification’s quarterfinals came in Class AAA. It was seventh-seeded Seneca Valley upending No. 2-seed Upper St. Clair, 5-2, to advance to the semifinals Thursday on Neville Island.

During the regular season, Seneca Valley and Upper St. Clair split their two meetings. The Panthers won 4-0 on Dec. 2, and the Raiders won 3-2 on Jan. 6.

Tuesday night, Seneca Valley got a lead and didn’t look back.

“When you’re on the road and playing a two seed as a seven, it’s tough. But I think the mentality is anybody can win in Triple-A,” Raiders coach Anthony Raco said. “The start for us was great. We told our guys they had to do the necessary work off the ice before, and everyone did their homework and was bought in. We thought we had a good start because of that.”

Neither team scored in the first period.

The Raiders grabbed the first goal at 4 minutes, 42 seconds of the second, an even-strength tally by Ryan Russell on a feed from Adam Raible.

CJ Phillips then scored short-handed from Russell at 8:55 of the same period before Upper St. Clair got on the board.

“The things that we wanted to do was limit their time and space,” Raco said. “We wanted to live in their end. Our best defense was forechecking them hard but appropriately and knowing when to give up the zone. We haven’t gotten the first goal a bunch this year, so that was big for us. It gave us a lot of energy.”

Being able to stay in the moment with a lead after the initial Panthers tally was big as well, said Raco, who emphasized the importance of then adding on to it. Chris Belt scored the next two goals, increasing the Raiders’ lead a 16:03 of the second and 6:24 of the third.

The Panthers then scored for the final time at 13:30 but saw the Raiders respond almost immediately, as Russell picked up his second goal of the game just 35 seconds later.

Robbie Halyama made 22 saves on 24 shots on goal for the Raiders.

“His second period was amazing. We knew Upper St. Clair was going to get its chances,” Raco said. “It’s save by save with him. He did a good job of steering pucks into the corner.”

Seneca Valley advanced to the semifinals and will play No. 3 Peters Township on Thursday night.

The two split their meetings in the regular season, with Seneca Valley winning 5-2 on Oct. 31 and Peters Township winning 7-0 on Jan. 28.

“Peters is a fun team to play against. Rick Tingle is a great guy, and he prepares his guys well,” Raco said. “We’re expecting a physical game, and for us, it’s a lot of the same preparation-wise and needing to get a lead. Obviously, planning for each team is different. Peters isn’t the same as Upper St. Clair.”

Puck drop of the semifinal is scheduled for 9 p.m. Thursday at RMU Island Sports Center.

Honorable Mentions:

Mars: Last week’s PIHL Team of the Week went from the outside looking in to division champs in one week and now own a playoff win over Montour, which finished the regular season with five more points than the Planets, despite having to win a play-in game to set up a meeting with Mars. Despite allowing 52 shots on goal, Mars won in overtime 6-5 with a tally by Mack Reamer. Danny Mitchell, the Fightin’ Planets’ goalie, made 47 saves and one on a penalty shot.

Indiana: In the Class A quarterfinals, Indiana upset Bishop McCort, 4-3, in overtime Monday. During the regular season, Bishop McCort was 17-2-1, and Indiana was 11-6-3.

Kiski Area: The Cavaliers won one game during the 2018-19 season. It was by forfeit. This year has been different. The Cavaliers were 12-7-1 during the regular season and won the Northeast Division. After Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Norwin, the Cavaliers are one win away from the Penguins Cup Finals in Class A. They will meet division-foe Indiana on Tuesday in the semifinals.

Carrick: Carrick had to come from behind against Burrell, which was without Tyler Stewart and Gio Palombo, its top two scorers. Carrick ended up winning the game 9-5 and advanced to play North Division champ Neshannock in the Class B semifinals.

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