The First Round of the PIHL Class 1-A Penguins Cup Playoffs came to a memorable finish on Tuesday with a upset and a historic comeback. The four opening round contests closed the door on the opening round and set the stage for the high school hockey Quarterfinals on Thursday. Plus a Division II Quarterfinals results has 3/4 of the Semifinals set for next weekend. Here are the recaps from the five PIHL postseason contests played on Tuesday.
A special thanks to Sean Meyers, Sean Saputo and Don Rebel for their help on these recaps.
PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS 1-A First Round:
Westmont-Hilltop Hilltoppers 6 – Chartiers Valley Colts 5 in Overtime
After two periods of play, many would have considered punching the Chartiers Valley Colts’ ticket to the next round as it held a 5-1 lead. However, the Westmont Hilltop Hilltoppers didn’t make the long trip just to go home packing, as it pulled off one of, if not the most memorable comebacks in PIHL Playoff history, stunning the Colts 6-5 in overtime. The first period was well played and it looked as if it was going to be a hard-fought even matchup. The Colts scored the first two goals of the period to take a 2-0 lead. Jake Casto scored the first goal, assisted by Alexander Evans and Trevor Stevenson. The second goal for the Colts was scored by Luke Vaughn, assisted by Evans. The Hilltoppers netted a goal late in the first period when Corbin Ragino trimmed the lead to 2-1 when assisted by Gunnar Hockenberry. Tides turned in the second period, as it was all Colts, scoring three goals in 3:57 in the early stages of the period. Vaughn scored the first of three when he was assisted by Stevenson. 42 seconds later, Stevenson sniped a shot from the point, assisted by Evans to make it 4-1. Then, 2:15 after that, Noah Fodor extended the lead to 5-1 when he was assisted by Casto. Despite the four-goal deficit, the Hilltoppers established some solid offense late in the second, drew a late penalty and were set to start the third with just under 30 seconds left on a power-play. The established offense in the second period was the boost the Hilltoppers needed, as it sparked for four goals in the period. The first goal was scored by Nicholas McQuillan and was assisted by Ragino and Joseph Hlivko. Shortly after, Michael Lamison cut the deficit to 5-3 and was assisted by Hockenberry. Nathan Shorto came up big, cutting the lead to one and tying the game with two goals, the first assisted by Lamison and Ragino, while the second was also assisted by Ragino, as well as Devon Hearn. The Colts and Hilltoppers fought hard for the final minutes, but the game remained tied and went to sudden death overtime. Feeding off the momentum, the Hilltoppers kept the pressure and just 1:14 into the overtime, Lamison split two defenders and ripped a wrist shot from the high slot past Colts goalie Brandon Edwards, giving the Hilltoppers the 6-5 comeback victory. The Hilltoppers move on to face the #1 seed from the A- East, Franklin Regional Panthers on Thursday. The Colts season comes to a close in stunning fashion, finishing with an 11-6-2 record.
Montour Spartans 3 – Kiski Area Cavaliers 2
The Montour Spartans used a pair of second-period goals and terrific penalty killing in the third period to notch a 3-2 victory over the Kiski Area Cavaliers in the Class A play-in round at Center Ice Arena in Delmont. Brandon Eisel opened the scoring in the first for the Spartans, but the Cavs prolific scorer Austin LaPiana deposited a rebound to deadlock the contest later in the stanza. Montour, the No. 5 West seed, regained the lead for good in the second frame, as Matthew Tracy staked his team to a 2-1 edge about halfway through the period, and then Ryan Eisel extended the advantage about five minutes later. No. 4 East seed Kiski Area stayed within striking distance, though, as Nicholas Wallace shoveled a shot past the Spartans’ unsuspecting goaltender, Mason Skeath, late in the second. Although the Cavs had an array of opportunities to tie the game in the third period, including a pair of 5-on-3 advantages, the Spartans’ defense and Skeath held strong to secure the victory. Skeath finished with 24 saves, while Kiski Area netminder Alexander Ferraro made 14 stops. Montour next faces Baldwin, the top-seeded team from the West, in the quarterfinals.
Indiana Little Indians 10 – South Park Eagles 2
Pat O’Neal was the real deal for Indiana as the Little Indians skated past South Park and into the Quarterfinals on Thursday of the PIHL Penguins Cup Class 1-A playoffs. O’Neal wore his assist cap in the first two periods as he set up four of the five goals scored for Indiana, which led 5-1 after two periods. The he switched to his goal scoring cap in the third as he scored three straight goals in a six minute span as the Little Indians turned a 5-2 game a minute into the final period into a 10-2 laugher. Mitchell Lewis added two goals and two assists for Indiana, which improves to 15-4-0 and will host Sewickley Academy in the Quarterfinals. The Eagles, who got goals from Jacob Kwolek and Jakob Kickey, end their season with a mark of 7-11-1.
Sewickley Academy Panthers 4 – Bishop McCort Crimson Crushers 1
Michael Hertzberg scored a pair of goals as Sewickley Academy made the long trek to Johnstown and came home with an upset of perennial power Bishop McCort 4-1. The Crimson Crushers were considered by many a dark horse coming into the Class 1-A playoffs, but fell behind on home ice 3-0 after two periods on Panthers goals by Joey Straka, Ryan Gex and Hertzberg. After Alex Templin scored for the Crimson Crushers early in the third to make it 3-1, Sewickley Academy held on before Hertzberg’s second goal into an empty net with :40 left sealed the deal on the surprise outcome. Cole Luther was marvelous between the pipes for the Panthers with 27 saves on 28 shots. Sewickley Academy is now 10-9-0 and advances to play Indiana in the Quarterfinals while Bishop McCort makes an early exit of the Penguins Cup playoffs with a final record of 13-6-0.
PIHL DIVISION II Quarterfinals:
Central Valley Warriors 5 – Elizabeth Forward Warriors 4
Cameron Drake scored three goals and added an assist as Central Valley overcame penalties and a spirited Elizabeth Forward attack to win by one goal Tuesday and advance to next weeks Division II Semifinals. Drake scored two of his goals in the first period that wiped away an early 2-0 lead for the visiting Warriors. Drake completed the hat trick in the second period that at the time gave the Warriors a 4-2 lead. EF kept it close though thanks to a pair of goal by Michael Vasko. CV did not help their cause by committing six penalties, but solid penalty killing helped bail them out as the Warriors finished 1 for 6 on the power play. Elizabeth Forward sees their season end at 5-15-2 while Central Valley, now 13-7-1, will face Carrick in the D-II Semifinals on Tuesday, March 14th.