PIHL Notebook

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The eventful play-in and first round action has drawn to a conclusion, and now the focus is on the semifinals in all four classifications. Last night, Franklin Regional and Indiana scored dramatic victories to advance to the Class A Championship. Weather permitting, the Class AAA, Class AA and Division 2 title games will also be set after tonight and tomorrow. This week's PIHL Notebook takes a look at the six contests that will determine which teams advance to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry next week.

Class AAA

No. 1 Pittsburgh Central Catholic vs No. 5 Seneca Valley at the RMU Sports Complex on Neville Island at 6:45 Wednesday, with Steve Nagler and Kevin Zielmanski:

The top-seeded Vikings avoided an upset bid by Butler in the opening round, as they scored a come-from-behind victory, 5-3. Conversely, the Raiders made the arduous trip to Erie, and ousted the defending champion Ramblers, 3-1.

For Central Catholic, it was many of the usual suspects who contributed to the victory, as Jacob Kingerski, Ryan Haag and Ryan Kingerski all notched goals in the decisive third period, while Christian Caparelli scored a pair of goals in the middle frame. That quartet combined for 14 points in the contest, while Jake Tepe added the only other point for the Vikings, an assist. Between the pipes, goaltender Nate Cava was busy, as he recorded 37 saves against the Golden Tornado.

Just like Central Catholic, Seneca Valley outscored its opposition 3-0 in the third period, as the Raiders surprisingly triumphed against Erie Cathedral Prep. Christopher Lipnicky notched a power play tally early in the third stanza, Zachary Broskey scored the winner, and Giovanni Sarachine sealed the win with an empty netter. Although neither team produced a slew of shots, Raiders goaltender Dylan Sloat was strong in net, making 24 stops.

Both regular-season affairs between Central Catholic and Seneca Valley went in favor of the Vikings, 3-1 on Nov. 22, and 4-3 on Jan. 16.

No. 2 North Allegheny vs No. 6 Peters Township at the RMU Sports Complex at Neville Island at 9 Wednesday, with Bob Orkwis and Sean Saputo:

In the 2016 Class AAA Championship, North Allegheny fell in overtime. However, the extra period was more favorable to the Tigers in 2017, as they bested Bethel Park 3-2. It was a tight affair for the Indians, too, as they squeezed past higher-seeded Canon-McMillan, 2-1.

The hero for North Allegheny was Erik Chidester, as he scored the unassisted winner nearly six minutes into overtime. John Parks and Tyler Lamark also lit the lamp for the Tigers in the victory, while Steven Dietz added a pair of helpers. Goalie Ryan Heil continued his strong play, as he made 28 saves on 30 shots to earn the W.

Peters Township dropped its regular-season finale to Canon-McMillan, but the Indians gained revenge on the Big Macs when it really mattered.  Canon-Mac jumped out to a lead just one minute into regulation, but Peters Township deadlocked the game late in the period on a tally by Brett Lejeune, and then took the lead just over three mintues into the second period, courtesy of Stephen Rex. Despite serving as the backup for most of the regular slate, Alex Wilbert stood tall in net for the Indians, as he recorded 21 saves.

The first meeting between North Allegheny and Peters Township concluded in a 2-2 tie on Oct. 20, while the rematch on Jan. 23 went in favor of the Tigers, 4-1.

Class AA

No. 3 West Quaker Valley vs No. 4 East Greater Latrobe at the RMU Sports Complex at Neville Island at 6 Tuesday, with Josh Rowntree and Rob Longo:

Both the Quakers and IceCats pulled off quarterfinals upsets to reach this point, although Greater Latrobe's victory registered as much more of a shocker. The Quakers bested No. 2 East Hampton 5-4, while Greater Latrobe knocked off the West's top seed, Moon, 6-3.

The Quaker Valley win came in dramatic fashion, as the Quakers' Austin Wetzel netted the winner with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Prior to his heroics, the team's exchanged goals in the third, with Ben Kuzma scoring on the power play to previously stake QV to the advantage. Each member of the Quakers top line also scored, as Beau Tomczak got Quaker Valley on the board, while Rico Fernandez and Ryan Quinn tallied in the second period. Freshman goalie Philip Gagne didn't have a pretty save percentage, but his 16 stops were enough to secure the win.

Greater Latrobe carried some momentum into its matchup against Moon, as the IceCats needed to score a victory in the play-in round against Mars just to make it to the quarterfinals. That momentum resulted in the IceCats scoring the first two goals against the Tigers, and never relinquishing the lead. Blake Rossi and Jacob Burkardt provided first-period markers, while GL's top scorer, JT Schimizzi, scored in the second period. Although Moon eventually pulled within a goal at 3-2, the IceCats exploded for three more goals in the final period, with Gregory Ferri scoring twice, and Schimizzi capping the upset with an empty netter with just one second remaining. Ryan Pal picked up the victory in net for the IceCats, as he stopped 26 of the 29 pucks on net.

Quaker Valley and Greater Latrobe met once in the regular season, with the host Quakers scoring a 5-2 victory on Jan. 9.

No. 1 East Plum vs No. 3 East Hempfield Area at the RMU Sports Complex at Neville Island at 8:15 Tuesday, with Sean Meyers and Cory Campano:

The heavily-favored Mustangs advanced to the semifinals, although not in particularly easy fashion, winning 5-2 against Shaler, while the Spartans bounced an impressive Mount Lebanon squad, also by the score of 5-2.

Plum dominated Shaler 6-1 and 9-1 in the regular campaign, but the Titans turned in an inspired effort, and actually took an early lead. Plum scored the next two goals, though, via Anthony Adamski and Ryan Loebig to take the lead, although the Titans deadlocked the contest late in the first period. The only goal in the middle stanza belonged to Plum's Alexi Mance, while Class AA leading scorer Nolan Puhala and Dillon Joyce capped the scoring with goals in the third stanza. That dynamic duo each had an assist, too, to propel the Mustangs' offense. Defensively, Plum made the task relatively easy for netminder Sergio Benitez, who made 19 saves.

Hempfield Area jumped all over Mount Lebanon early, as the Spartans held a 3-0 lead just over five minutes into the contest. Matthew Bartus opened the scoring, and Dominic Schimizzi followed with a pair of tallies. Although the Blue Devils responded with a pair of goals to pull within one early in the second period, Jared Gerger gave the Spartans insurance, and Mario Colosi's third-period marker concluded the scoring. In net, Nolen Ferree earned the victory for Hempfield, as he turned away 26 shots by the Blue Devils.

The two meetings between Plum and Hempfield occurred early in the season, with the Mustangs dominating both encounters. Plum prevailed 9-1 on Oct. 3, while the rematch also went to the Mustangs, 5-1 on Nov. 17.

Division 2

No. 1 Meadville vs No. 4 Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at the Alpha Ice Complex in Harmarville at 7 Tuesday, with Mike Azadian and Lou Rood:

The Bulldogs seemingly faced a stiff challenge in the opening round, but they cruised to a 9-0 whitewash of the Burrell Buccaneers. The Chargers turned in an impressive performance, as well, ousting Ringgold 6-2.

After tying Burrell in its first encounter, Meadville left no doubt last week, as the Bulldogs scored four times in the opening period. Luke Triola, Dylan Steiner, Jeffery Millin, and Luke English all tickled the twine in the first frame to all but assure the win. Meadville kept its foot on the pedal, though, scoring three more times in the second period, including another tally by Steiner, and then added two more in the third. The Bulldogs got production throughout their lineup, as eight players scored a goal, and 11 registered a point against the typically stingy Burrell defense. On the other end, Meadville's Edward Kaufman pitched the shutout, stopping all 20 shots he saw.

The Chargers started strong and finished strong against Ringgold, as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart scored the first two goals, and the final four goals of the contest. Tyler Cerankowski accounted for both of the first period goals, but the Rams scored twice in quick order to even the tilt in the second period. The Chargers regained the lead just one minute later, however, as Josh Gunia's shorthanded tally ultimately proved to be the deciding goal. Mark Zukowski and Alec Elinoff extended the OLSH lead in the second, and Gunia sealed the outcome with a marker in the third stanza. In a contest that featured 80 total shots, OLSH goaltender Cameron Witkowski was busy, making 35 stops.

The two regular-season encounters were lopsided in favor of the Bulldogs, as Meadville won by identical 9-1 margins on Oct. 17 and Feb. 7.

No. 2 Carrick vs No. 3 Central Valley at the Alpha Ice Complex in Harmarville at 9 Tuesday, with Matt Vandriak and Rennie Detore:

The Cougars, much like Meadville, faced a big obstacle in the opening round, as they faced the Class C leader Kennedy Catholic. Carrick came out on top, though, 5-2 against the Golden Eagles. Meanwhile, Central Valley just squeaked past upset-minded Elizabeth Forward, 5-4.

Carrick fans might've felt uneasy after Kennedy Catholic struck first early in the second period, but five unanswered goals by the Cougars assured that Carrick's season would not come to a premature end. Late in the second frame, Olivia Cindrich and Tyler Wolf both tallied, and the Cougars struck for three more goals in less than three minutes during the third period. That Carrick surge included goals from Liam Rubright, Caleb Tichon and Aiden Barker. Meanwhile, veteran goalie Nathan Norkevicus fended off 32 of the 34 shots he faced.

Conversely, Central Valley's game was a back-and-forth affair that came down to the final seconds. In a high-scoring first period, Elizabeth Forward notched the first two tallies, but CV scored the final three markers. Prolific scorer Cameron Drake provided two of those goals, while Nickolas Mulford had the other. Drake completed the hat trick approximately midway through the second frame, and Anthony Santilli provided much-needed insurance with a goal in the third period. Although EF later pulled within one, Central Valley hung on. Netminder Roberto Wilhelm made just 14 saves in the victory.

Carrick and Central Valley met twice about two weeks apart in the campaign, with the Cougars prevailing in both affairs, 6-4 and 3-0.

Quotable (excerpt from a recent center stage)

“We're definitely going to have to play more positionally sound. We can't be running around, because they'll definitely capitalize on us. And also a major thing - we can't be taking penalties.”

Indiana's Pat O'Neal, highlighting the keys for his team against Franklin Regional in the Class A Penguins Cup Championship next week. O'Neal scored the overtime winner against Montour in the semifinals. The interview in its entirety can be viewed here:

Top-Shelf Trivia

Which was the most recent team to repeat as Class AAA Penguins Cup Champions? The answer will be revealed in next week's notebook.

Last week's trivia answer: Bishop McCort, with 31

That'll wrap it up for this week's installment of the PIHL Notebook, but remember to check back next Tuesday for the championship edition. Also, this week's Chatham University PIHL Power Play Show will air on a special night, as the show can be heard on Thursday at 8 p.m. Hosts Sean Meyers and Kevin Zielmanski will preview the four championship contests to be held next week.

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