By Matt Popchock
6:00 - We're at the Pittsburgh Penguins' home away from home for some PIHL Class AAA hockey action tonight! In just a little while, the puck will drop on a non-section contest between the Peters Township Indians and the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings.
Mr. High School Sports is in Southpointe tonight, and he'll be updating you all night long on this and the other games around the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League.
6:15 - Peters Township is "playing up" this year after skating to the top seed in Class AA last season before being upset at CONSOL Energy Center by Bishop Canevin in the Penguins Cup Final, and the Indians are acquitting themselves well. Led by veteran head coach Rick Tingle, they're 2-0-1 after five games, good for second place behind Section 1 leader Canon-McMillan, the Class AAA silver medalist--which is in action later tonight against Hempfield at this very venue.
The Indians are coming off a 10-1 non-section drubbing of Erie McDowell here last week, and with 21 total goals, they own the No. 2 offense in Class AAA entering this week.
However, they will be without one of their top guns, Taylor Cox, who took a game misconduct in that one. Per USA Hockey/PIHL rules, Cox must miss tonight's contest.
Patrick Hannan, son of former Penguin Dave Hannan, leads Peters with eight points (2 G + 6 A), while Davan Groom leads the team in goals with six.
Brian Baker has been a big part of the team's success on the back end. Peters has allowed just five goals in its first three games, and Baker, who has both wins, will get the nod tonight.
6:22 - The Vikings, led by new coach William Connelly, who replaced PIHL veteran Bob Kennedy in the off-season, have started reasonably well, jumping out to an early lead in Section 3 with a 2-1-0 record. Central Catholic is coming off a 9-2 blowout of section rival Butler at Ice Connection of Pittsburgh last Monday.
Central has found good balance on offense during this young 2011-12 season, as Eric Smith and Kevin Kline share the team lead in goals with four apiece. Three of Smith's goals have come on special teams (two of them shorthanded), and he leads the team with eight points entering this week.
Connelly has not indicated whether Brian Burger or Kevin Dziubek will start in goal tonight--though Burger has gotten the majority of the minutes--so we'll keep an eye on that. Central Catholic has also allowed just five goals coming into tonight.
6:26 - They're just cutting the ice now, since a non-league practice ran late. Looks like the puck will be dropping a little bit after the scheduled 6:30 start time.
By the way, Central Catholic, last season, finished second in Section 3 before bowing to Bethel Park in the Class AAA Penguins Cup Quarterfinals.
Cox, incidentally, just came by the broadcasters' table. He's keeping stats for his team tonight while sitting out. Definitely a team player.
6:31 - Upon further discussion with John Rubino of the PIHL Network, Cox told him he was concussed in the McDowell game. So there may be other reasons for his absence tonight. Interesting...
6:32 - Both teams have taken the ice for the warm-up skate. Peters decked out in its home whites, will be attacking left to right on your computer or mobile device to begin the game. Central is decked out in its yellow-gold "third" jerseys, new for this season, as bragged about by the program on their Twitter page prior to the start of the new scholastic sports year.
6:36 - It looks like Burger will start in net for Central Catholic. So, once again, it's Brian Baker in goal for Peters, and Brian Burger between the pipes for the Vikings. Let the confusion and resulting hilarity begin...!
6:38 - Alexis Fuqua singing the National Anthem tonight (supposedly, she's trying to audition for Duquesne basketball games). Best of luck with that.
6:40 - Speaking of inspirational people, always good to be joined by the aforementioned Mr. Rubino, my producer for PIHL broadcasts, and by fellow network broadcaster Bob Sebastian, who is on the call tonight.
This really is a professional-looking facility, including Jay's Restaurant directly across the way. Only pet peeve is the piping that practically blocks our entire view of the scoreboard clock. Would love to know which architect or engineer was responsible for that gaffe...
6:43 - Game on!
6:45 - 1:37 gone in the first period. Peters came out and tried to dictate the tempo, though both teams now have their first shot on goal of the night.
6:46 - Cole Snyder with a golden opportunity along the goal line, but a great toe save by Burger, who covers for a faceoff. Still no score.
6:47 - 10:46 left in the first period. Strong early attack by the Indians, from all lines, but still nothing to show for it.
6:48 - Score! T.J. Skraits deflects a David Rex shot from an impossible angle that stuns Burger. 1-0 Peters, 4:28 into the period.
They're now giving it to Rex, his first of the season, with an assist from Jacob Brown.
6:50 - Eric Smith in the box for interference. Peters on the power play with 9:11 to go in the first.
6:52 - Pretty glove save by Burger on Hannan to keep it 1-0.
6:54 - Icing against Central with 6:41 left in the first, as both teams are back to 5-on-5. Still just two PPG's for Peters so far this season. Give Burger credit for weathering this storm; the Indians are possessing the puck, and look a lot like the team that went to CONSOL eight months ago.
6:57 - Still 1-0 Peters with 4:16 left. Tingle talking to the referees about a play moments ago; Trevor Recktenwald barreled through the right circle and wristed a shot that may or may not gave gone in and out. Two Peters players raised their sticks, but the refs gave the wash-out sign. Although high school hockey technology has evolved, there is no video replay...though I wonder if they'll ask John for one? Needless to say, Tingle didn't win the argument.
6:59 - Under 3 minutes to go in the frame. Central has picked up the hitting in an effort to get back into this game, but they've still given up some good chances...and like I said, maybe caught a break on that non-goal. My knee-jerk reaction is that it went under the crossbar and out for a good goal.
7:00 - Score! Peters gets one anyway! Alex DeBolt sets up Davan Groom for a one-timer from point blank range, and he beats Burger between the legs for his team-leading seventh of the year.
7:02 - Kline nearly gets it back for the Vikings, but Baker makes an unconscious leg save, and his mates help him freeze the puck. This time it was Peters catching the break.
7:04 - Baker freezes it again, and he was smacked into by players from both teams right before the period expires. Sam Barnes, the JV move-up playing for Cox, goes off for a cross-check, and so Central Catholic, which trails Peters Township 2-0 after the first period, will begin the second with its first power play of the night.
The Vikings definitely found their legs toward the end of that frame, but the Indians, for the most part, have out-skated them and made life hairy for Brian Burger.
7:08 - Score! The pit gets deeper for the visitors, as Cole Snyder picks the pocket of a defender, and, all alone, completely undresses Burger for the shorthanded goal--first shortie of the year for Peters Township, which takes a 3-0 lead 1:48 into the second. Unassisted goal.
No shots for Central on that PP. Still just three PPG's for the Vikings this season.
7:10 - Snyder almost got his seventh of the year moments later, but missed the net high. Kevin Kline's wrist shot is gloved by Baker. He's had some good looks at the net tonight.
7:12 - Four minutes into the frame, a three-goal deficit, and Central continues to unravel with a too many men penalty served by, of all people, Kline. Vikings need a good kill here. Their three shorthanded goals are tied for the most in Class AAA, so maybe this is a blessing in disguise?
7:14 - Central kills it off with 9 minutes to go till the ice cut.
By the way, shots were just 12-8 for Peters in the first. Sure doesn't feel that way now, as the Indians continue to be the aggressor.
7:16 - The intensity is picking up, and Ben Zalewski gets a little overzealous in front of his own bench and takes a roughing minor midway through the period. Back to work for Central Catholic's power play, still 3-0 Peters Township.
7:18 - Speaking of which...Jake Brown and Jake Rostek off for coincidental roughing minors. Still 5-on-4 for Central.
7:19 - Good screen by James Pozycki, better glove save by Baker, probably his best stop of the night, with 6:32 left.
7:20 - Score! The Vikings are back in it, as Kyle Ciccone, right out in front, scores from his knees, beating a hapless Baker for his first of the season, with an assist from Kellen Carleton. 3-1 Peters with under 5 minutes left.
7:24 - Connor Dunning's slap shot is smothered by Baker with 3:30 left. Momentum shifting slowly toward Central's direction...
7:23 - At the 11:53 mark, captain Travis Cully takes a roughing penalty for riding one of the Indians into the net. Not a smart one to take.
7:25 - Connor Dunning keeps it 3-1 by blocking what would have been a Peters goal into a yawning net with his stick. Remember that play if the Vikings can mount a comeback. 1:40 left, 0:33 left in the penalty.
7:28 - Bodies continue to fly, and Baker makes a nice blocker save on Kline during a 2-on-1 shortly before the second period ends.
Time to cut the ice here at the Ice-O-Plex with Peters Township hanging onto a 3-1 lead over Pittsburgh Central Catholic. Shots 21-19 after two, in favor of the Indians.
7:31 - UPDATE: Open Class: Trinity leads Wheeling C.C. 2-0 late in the 2nd, and Greensburg-Salem leads Hollidaysburg 2-0 early in the 1st.
7:33 - UPDATE: Class A: Hampton leads South Fayette 1-0 midway through the 1st. Rob Pavlik on the power play with the goal for the Talbots, his first of the year.
7:34 - UPDATE: Class AA: Gateway and West Allegheny just getting underway. Visit our friends at the MSA Sports Network for more on that one.
Gateway lost recently after starting the season 3-0, an uncommonly good start for that program.
7:40 - Peters has taken the ice again to warm up for the third. Central follows shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, Trinity's lead has been trimmed to 2-1 late in the 2nd, and Salem has opened a 3-0 lead in its game, still in the 1st.
7:42 - Almost set to begin the third. The stick work of Dunning is looming large, as is the non-goal late in the first, as Peters was unable to answer that late score by Central. The Vikings have done a better job matching the intensity of Peters Township as of late, so it's up to Peters to get back to what it was doing at the outset of this game, and get its forecheck going.
7:46 - Rostek gets a little too rowdy and is called for roughing at the 1:43 mark, as he got tied up with Snyder. Power play to Peters Township, still ahead 3-1.
7:47 - Score! Snyder with a beautiful cross-ice feed to Trevor Recktenwald, who buries it on a one-timer from the left side 2:05 into the period. Nothing Burger could have done there, just great execution. Peters finally strikes on the man-advantage, and now leads 4-1. Second of the year for Recktenwald, and Hannan gets an assist.
Moments later, Ryan Wyatt gets called for roughing in front of his own net. Power play now goes to the Vikings.
7:51 - 50 seconds left in the penalty, faceoff in Central territory after a bad giveaway. Every time Central gets a look at Baker, Peters does a good job sealing off the shooting lanes in front of its goaltender. Baker hasn't had to work too hard on this PK.
7:54 - George Tsounos of Central and Hannan go off for coincidental minors after Baker covered a loose puck along his goal line with 9:42 left in regulation. Sure enough, the hitting only intensifies once play resumes.
7:55 - Score! The captain takes charge, as Travis Cully blasts one up high from the left point and beats Baker! First of the year for him, and Central has cut the deficit to 4-2 with 9 minutes left. Vikings down but not out.
7:58 - Peters quickly goes back on the counter-attack, and they'll get a faceoff in the offensive zone after an icing call with under 7 minutes left. Still 4-2.
8:02 - Smith had an avenue between the circles, but Brian Baker was there for a nice save. 3:17 left in the game, as Peters is trying to just get the puck deep and not make any egregious mistakes with it.
8:04 - Fans rightfully applauding as the end to end action picks up; both goalies making nice saves on odd man rushes. 2:13 left, still 4-2 Peters. We'll keep an eye on Brian Burger down to our right...
8:05 - Faceoff to the right of Baker. Timeout taken by Central Catholic head coach William Connelly with 1:39 left. Got to think Burger will sit this one out, with an offensive zone faceoff coming up for the Vikings...who still trail by two.
8:07 - Burger cheating toward the bench slightly with just over a minute left...
8:08 - And that will do it! Peters Township prevails, 4-2, over the Vikings. Indians improve to 3-0-1 overall, Central falls to 2-2-0.
8:22 - Talked to Peters Township head coach Rick Tingle. Wants to work on issues in the neutral zone moving forward. Said team's goal is to give up no more than two goals per game, so he's "satisfied" with his defensive effort tonight. Excited about moving up to Class AAA, felt it was a necessary move for the program and all who support it. Wasn't worried about playing without Taylor because of the depth of this year's team. Felt they gave away Central's first goal, and knew from that point, it would be tough to match their hot start. Cox is indeed concussed, but Coach believes it's a short-term injury.
8:25 - "Renegade" is blaring over the P.A. system, moments after the Canon-McMillan pep band entertained us while the Big Macs took the ice for their home game against Hempfield.
There is nothing better than a drum beat you can dance to.
Anyway, time to shift outside, but Mr. High School Sports will have more from tonight's early game in just a few minutes...
8:48 - Here's what Brian Baker had to say after picking up his third win of the PIHL season...
Liked the way they came together defensively as the game wore on; Coach Tingle warned them about responsible play on the back end. Team simply played its game in final moments when Central was pressing for third and game-tying goals. Key to smooth transition (so far) to Class AAA has been team chemistry and aggressive offense; "we're playing the way we should."
8:56 - Here's what Cole Snyder, the game-winning goal scorer, had to say afterward:
On short-handed goal: teammate was pressuring the puck-carrier behind the net...he saw the forward was looking for a pass, so he read it and stepped into the passing lane, which led to the score. On Recktenwald's goal: wanted to run that one-timer play again after an unsuccessful try earlier..."I got around a couple guys, and I heard Trevor hollering for the puck...he just finished it." Attention to special teams play in practice was definitely rewarded tonight. Felt like Central Catholic got momentum by picking up its own physical intensity, and feels his team responded with its own physical play in the third; feels like they controlled the third period by matching that intensity. Taylor Cox is a tough loss, team has to simply persevere and hope he's back soon. Teamwork is biggest reason for early success in higher classification, competition definitely stiffer up there.
Peters Township is home to Bethel Park (2-3-0 entering this week) next Monday here at Ice-O-Plex for a Section 1 game, while Pittsburgh Central Catholic hosts Hempfield (also 2-3-0 entering this week) in a non-section game at BladeRunners Harmarville that night.
In other PIHL action...
Trinity beats Wheeling C.C. 4-2. Ferguson with the game-winning goal and an assist; Jarrod Blumer, Brooke Webber, and Braden Weiser the other goal-scorers for the Hillers. Andrew Mack with 35 saves.
Greensburg-Salem beats Hollidaysburg 6-2. Sean Beichner and Logan Davis with two goals apiece for the Golden Lions; Beichner had the game-winner.
Hampton beats South Fayette 4-1. Game-winning goal went to Harrison Clark. Rob Pavlik, Joe Vita, and Zach Kosick the other goal-getters for the Talbots. Weird storyline: Nick Schultz gets the lone goal for the Lions, and also gets tossed from the game for "abuse of officials." Very tough loss for South Fayette if he has to miss extended time for disciplinary reasons.
Wow...talk about coming back to Earth...West Allegheny whacks Gateway 10-0. Eight-goal first period for the Indians in a fight-filled game that saw Jon Levitt pick up a hat trick and three assists. Jared DiSanti scored twice, including the game-winner. (The running clock goes into effect if a team is up by seven after the midway point. West A already had five with 10 minutes gone in this one.)
Shaler beats Butler 8-4. Jacob Hetz sparks a five-goal opening frame for the Titans, and finishes with four goals, including the game-winner, and two helpers. Corey Chuba with a pair for the Golden Tornado.
9:20 - Some games in progress as Mr. High School Sports gets ready to hit the road:
Morgantown leading Wheeling Park 3-2 at the ice cut...
Norwin up 7-1 on Fox Chapel in the 3rd...
Penn-Trafford, trying to start 6-0, leads McDowell 3-2 in the 3rd...
Moon and Pine-Richland are just underway...
Canon-McMillan has mercy-ruled Hempfield, leading 10-0 late in the 2nd.
Check out the PIHL Network for more on these games in progress.
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