This past weekend PIHL Commissioner Ed Sam, his fellow bureaucrats, and coaches from far and wide convened to decide the annual All-Star rosters for all four classifications, which Mr. High School Sports will have for you upon their release. It’s a big group that had some pretty big decisions to make, but in the meantime, we had a plethora of big games last week, as two undefeated teams put their perfection on the line, and we’ve got to look back at them before getting you ready for this week. Here’s what’s been happening on the ice:
Mars 7, Serra Catholic 4 @ Rostraver Ice Garden
Thursday was an uncharacteristically pedestrian night for Tyler Stepke, who allowed half as many goals as the team had all season, but Mars’ usually efficient offense allowed the Planets (12-0-0) to survive a bad week for undefeated teams and remain atop both Class A and Section 2. Elliot Tisdale scored twice and set up Nick Blaney’s game-winner in a five-goal first period, and Robert Foley added a pair as well, while Robert Kendi Jr. had a two-goal night of his own for the Eagles (8-2-0), who cling to the lead in Section 3.
South Fayette 4, Freeport 3 @ Belmont Complex
Strange as it may sound, South Fayette’s three consecutive wins are the second-longest active streak in the classification, though the Lions (8-5-1) still trail Serra Catholic–which has four games in hand–in Section 3 by virtue of point percentage, despite a hard-earned non-section victory Thursday. Five minutes into the third period Nick Shultz scored his second goal of the game to provide the difference, and Michael Coyne made it count with 39 saves against the Yellowjackets (3-9-0), who sit at the bottom of Section 4 and got goals on the power play and at even strength from Cole Hepler before suffering their seventh consecutive loss.
Latrobe 2, Bishop Canevin 1 @ Kirk Nevin Arena
Surging Canevin catapulted to the top of the overall standings with victories over West Allegheny in Mount Lebanon and at the PIHL Winter Classic over the holidays, but on Thursday the state champions reminded them who’s still boss. An early second-period tally by Zach LaDuke proved to be the game-winner, as Shane Brudnok, Class AA’s top-ranked starting goalie, turned aside 19 pucks and Latrobe’s blue-liners survived a defensive struggle to give the Wildcats (8-2-1) their third straight win. Despite falling to the Section 4 front-runners, the Crusaders (10-2-0) still lead Section 3 thanks to Chartiers Valley’s upset loss to Greensburg Central, and Matt Walsh kept his point streak alive by scoring Bishop Canevin’s lone goal.
West Allegheny 4, Erie Cathedral Prep 1 @ Airport Ice Arena
The Indians (8-4-2) worked their defensive-minded system to a tee, and Erie Prep’s forwards were no match for goaltender Jason Kumpfmiller, who helped West A hand the last-place Ramblers (3-7-1) their third straight loss in Section 2 action Friday, while bumping their own lead over Montour to four points. Jacob Druga’s goal five minutes into the game gave West Allegheny a 2-0 lead it would not surrender, but he added an empty-netter for good measure, while Derek Schade scored a big shorthanded goal in the third to go with one assist. Sophomore sensation Jimmy Bufalino broke up the shutout bid midway through the second.
Baldwin 7, Hempfield 3 @ Ice Castle
The number of undefeated squads in the PIHL has dwindled, though happily, on the other end of the spectrum, so has the number of winless teams. The Highlanders (1-9-0) became the last in Class AAA to get the goose egg out of the “W” column Friday evening with a resounding non-section victory over the struggling Spartans (3-6-1), who remain in the Section 4 basement and barely out of the playoff picture. Jesse Powell’s four-goal explosion, which included a second-period hat trick, punctuated the big night for Baldwin, and you have to give them credit for keeping Class AAA scoring leader Kyle Rosendale off the stat sheet. Meanwhile, freshman Anthony Ciocca was one of three different Hempfield goal-scorers.
State College 7, Norwin 4 @ Center Ice
One solid period against their Section 4 rivals was all State College needed to break out of its offensive doldrums, take over first place, and push Norwin back onto the postseason bubble. Daniel Moscone led the Little Lions (4-5-2), who stormed out to a 4-1 lead after the first period, with a hat trick and one assist, and his goal with 1:11 to go in the second held up as the game-winner. Stefan Horgas and Ryan Pate each added a goal and an assist for State College, while Neil Stewart continued to climb the Class AAA scoring charts with a goal and three helpers for the Knights (4-7-1).
Ford City 3, Ligonier Valley 2 @ Belmont Complex
Since its Open Cup title run in ’09 the Sabers (9-1-1) seem to have had Lig’ Valley’s number, which might still be an understatement, and on Thursday they scored late to hold off the Mounties (4-6-1) again and retain the top spot in the Chiefs Cup Playoff race in non-section play. Dace Ludwig tied the game 2-2 with four minutes remaining in the second period, but Ford City countered just 1:29 into the third with a goal by Jesse Valasek set up by Kevin Valasek, who contributed a goal and an assist just like his brother.
Wheeling C.C. 4, Harbor Creek 3 @ Mercyhurst College
There are now only three teams in the league with perfect records (Fox Chapel and Mars being the other two), and there is only one left in the Open Class after Sunday afternoon’s non-section showdown. The Maroon Knights (11-0-0) prevailed in this battle of unbeatens, making the long drive up to Erie and pushing aside the Huskies (11-1-0) for the top spot in the overall Nailers Cup standings. Harbor Creek was coming off a road swing in which it had won four consecutive games against West Virginia-based opponents by a combined 25-9, including a 5-3 win over John Marshall last Friday.
For continuing coverage of the PIHL and Penguins Cup Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2010-11 season!