Upper St. Clair classmates provide heroics in 3rd PIHL girls championship game

Monday, June 3, 2024 | 10:48 PM

In the third annual PIHL hockey girls division championship game, the Southwest and West teams played a close game to the very end.

With 37 seconds left in regulation, Southwest forward Kayla McCarthy scored the game-winning goal and senior Alexa Carney added an empty net goal with eight seconds left as Southwest prevailed, 5-3.

“It feels amazing,” said McCarthy, a sophomore at Upper St. Clair. “Everybody contributed. It was a full team effort. It was nice to see all our hard work pay off.”

McCarthy’s goal came minutes after Southwest (11-2) came up empty on a power play when West senior Lakyn Schaltenbrand from Montour was called for tripping.

As Southwest cycled the puck in the West zone, McCarthy had the puck along the left-wing boards below the goal line and looked to pass as she turned towards the net. The puck caromed in.

“I was looking for a pass in front, but it went in and that’s all that matters,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty.”

McCarthy finished with a goal and two assists, while linemate and fellow sophomore from Upper St. Clair Natalia Disora recorded a hat trick.

“It feels great to get a hat trick and for the team to win the game, but it all comes down to the hard work everyone else put in,” Disora said. “We wouldn’t be champions without their contributions.”

McCarthy and Disora also play on the same club team and their chemistry was apparent throughout the contest.

“Kayla and I work really well together,” added Disora. “That really translated well both on and off the ice.”

Two of Disora’s goals were effort goals right in front of the net.

Down 1-0, Disora tied the game for Southwest, driving to the front of the net and putting a shot on West goalie Erin Judge. The rebound bounced back to Disora, who converted.

The second goal was a highlight-reel effort comparable to something Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin might do.

Disora drove hard to the front of the net, shot the puck and was once again rebuffed by the left pad of Judge. As she laid on her back, Disora was able to coral the rebound and chipped it up and over the left pad for a shorthanded goal.

“I’m not even sure how I did it. I think it was mostly luck,” said Disora. “The rebound just popped back to me, and I tried my best to put it in the back of the net.”

“That was a disgusting goal, pure talent,” said Southwest coach Tony Mucci. “I always say I like goals that are scored with effort, and that’s what that goal was all about.”

Disora’s final goal came with Southwest down 3-2 at the 15-minute mark of the third. She received a feed from McCarthy and glided down the right wing before firing a wrister over Judge’s shoulder. McKenna Watton had the secondary assist on the goal.

It was a back-and-forth tilt throughout as the West (9-4) opened the scoring in the first period.

Caroleena Genco scored a nifty goal when she received a pass from Poppy Acheson, who was standing at the blue line. Genco crossed the face of Southwest netminder Kristen Albertini while receiving the pass and buried a wrister top shelf.

Bookended by Disora’s first two goals, the West got a power-play goal from Schaltenbrand, who drove the puck past Albertini on a give and go with Lillian Relyea.

At 1:15 of the third, West sophomore Elizabeth Fabian came off the bench on a line change, picked up a loose puck in the zone and fired one over Albertini’s shoulder to give the West a 3-2 lead before Disora tied it.

“The game finished the way it should have, coming right down to the end,” said Mucci. “Me and West coach (Joe) Cummings talked and said it was a perfect championship game.”

Southwest was 0 for 3 on the power play and West converted on one of its three chances.

Southwest also won the shot battle, outshooting West 42-26.

“That is exactly the type of game you want when you’re building a sport like this,” said Mucci. “You don’t want a blowout either way. I’ve been on both sides of those types of games, and this is what you want, one-goal hockey.”

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