CONSOL Energy Center has played host to championship level hockey during the Penguins’ current 10-game winning streak. That success filtered down to the high school level Wednesday, as North Allegheny, Greater Latrobe and Quaker Valley were crowned 2013 PIHL Penguins Cup Championship Series champions.
The night ended with a defensive Class AAA struggle, a scoreless contest heading into the third period between North Allegheny and Peters Township. But the Tigers took the final frame, and with it, the 2-0 victory and their first championship since 2007.
It seemed fitting that after about 40 minutes of scoreless play, the deciding goal was of the shorthanded variety.
With just under 12 minutes remaining and on the penalty kill, North Allegheny forward Joe Griffin carried the puck into Peters’ zone and was stripped by Peters defenseman Carter Ekberg. Ekberg, quickly running out of real estate, decided to pass the puck in front of his own net, but it went off Griffin’s stick and past goalie Brian Baker, giving N.A. a 1-0 lead.
“I honestly don’t even know if I touched it,” Griffin said, “but I’ll take it. That’s how the game goes. We knew they were a high scoring team. They were definitely offensive. We kind of wanted to wear them out on defense and work defense up to offense.”
Griffin added another goal with just over three minutes left to give the Tigers some breathing room.
Both defenses dominated the action through the first two periods, giving up a combined 31 shots, few of which had a good chance of scoring, heading into the third. North Allegheny goalie Brad Thornburgh picked up the shutout, which he said “was a dream come true.”
“It’s a great feeling getting a shutout on the same rink my heroes get shutouts,” Thornburgh said.
A few hours earlier, Class AA’s best defensive team did not disappoint, as Greater Latrobe took down Pine Richland 5-0, while killing two 5-on-3s in the last eight minutes to earn its first Cup since winning three straight from 2008 to ‘10.
“To get back here again, and actually win this time, its an amazing feeling,” said Latrobe goalie Shane Brudnok, who picked up the shutout. “I have butterflies in my stomach. This one, it means a lot because it’s my last year and I wanted it to be as memorable as possible.”
Brudnok was part of the 2010 Latrobe team that took home the championship at Mellon Arena.
After a physical and scoreless first period, Latrobe exploded for three goals in the second. The barrage started during a 4-on-4 when Latrobe forward Dalton Hunter dug the puck off of the end boards and found defenseman Daniel Staffen posting up about 10 feet in front of the net. Staffen buried a quick snap shot past Pine Richland goalie Brandon Bagnato.
The Wildcats added two goals, scored by Hunter and forward Adam Ferguson, just 41 seconds apart, to give them a 3-0 lead entering the final period. Hunter, who finished with three points (2G-1A), added another goal in the third, taking the puck up the left side and putting it through Pine Richland forward Dillon Kessy’s legs before hitting the top-left corner of the net.
“The history here (at Latrobe) is unbelievable,” Hunter said. “Just to carry it on is an honor.”
Class A’s championship game also showcased some high-caliber defense, as Quaker Valley earned its second consecutive Cup and 46th consecutive victory with a 5-1 win in a rematch of its 4-2 win over Mars in last season’s A championship game. The teams have combined to win the last six single-A championships, splitting the set 3-3.
“This feels great,” said Quaker Valley forward Jimmy Perkins, who finished the game with three points (2G-1A). “Last year was a little bit different than this year, being the hunted this year, but it doesn’t get much better than this.”
Perkins stole the show, beating Mars goalie Christian Knapp twice.
After opening the scoring in the first period with a goal assisted by forwards Connor Quinn and Adam Pilewicz, Perkins gave the Quakers earned a picture-perfect goal to give the them a commanding 3-0 lead with just under two minutes left in the second. Perkins dragged the puck through the Planets’ crease, causing Knapp to fall forward, and then roofed it, knocking the water bottle onto the ice.
“Clayton (Bouchard) made a great play down low to get the puck down there,” Perkins said. “I think our D chipped it down to him and I was about to give it back to Clayton, but the D stepped to the side, so I was able to get around (Knapp) and I just shot it up high.”
The Quakers’ defense was just as impressive, killing six penalties and allowing just five Mars shots in the second period.
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