After being swept in both regular-season matchups, No. 2 seed Upper St. Clair got some sweet postseason revenge by defeating Baldwin, 6-2, on Monday in a PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup first-round game at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.
The Panthers’ Anthony Carone scored twice and added an assist as USC advanced to the semifinals for the second straight season.
“My mindset coming in was to keep the boys calm,” Upper St. Clair coach Justin Becinski said. “I knew if we kept them calm and kept them settled, I knew they would come out and respond, which is what they did.”
Upper St. Clair was likely having bad flashbacks early on when the Highlanders’ Noah Fischer wristed a shot past Panthers goalie Kyle Rohrich just over six minutes in to give Baldwin a 1-0 lead.
“The leadership on our bench told them there was a lot of game left,” Becinski said. “Our captain (Joe Pulit) stepped up big time and told them don’t worry about it, we can get that back and we know we can.”
But any fears the Panthers had of a third loss to Baldwin may have started to disappear four minutes later when USC scored twice in a span of less than a half minute to take the lead for good.
Upper St. Clair’s leading scorer, Devin Rohrich, overpowered Baldwin goalie Cole Shannon with a wrist shot that went in and out of the net minders glove, popped up in the air and trickled into the net to tie the game on a power play goal.
Twenty-two seconds later, the Panthers’ Mark McQuade was behind the goal line when he caromed a pass intended for the front of the net off of Shannon and into the cage for a 2-1 lead.
USC blew the game open in the second period on three unanswered goals.
Colton Shiry scored seven minutes in on a helper from Carone.
Pulit made it 4-1 late in the period when he won a battle against the boards for a loose puck, turned and slapped it past Shannon.
Carone then scored off a Baldwin turnover as he came down the slot and backhanded it past Shannon. Earlier in the second period, Carone tried the same move in alone on Shannon, and his backhander hit the post.
Baldwin got some momentum seven minutes into the third period when Keith Reed slammed home a rebound shot off a two-on-one break for the Highlanders.
But USC put the game away late when Carone scored a power play goal by beating Shannon on the forehand for his second tally of the contest.
Kyle Rohrich got the call between the pipes for USC as he split time in the regular season with Jake Fisher.
“It was a coach’s decision,” Becinski said. “We all talked about it and felt he was ready to go and he showed it all last week in practice.”
The loss ends the season for Baldwin (9-10-0-1).
Upper St. Clair has now won five of their last six games and will play in the Class AA semifinals against Franklin Regional on Wednesday, Mar. 13 at the RMU Island Sports Complex at 9 p.m.