By Matt Popchock
Despite West Allegheny struggling to find the net, and despite a recent losing streak by Montour, both Class AA powers arrived in Moon Township Monday night not knowing who is the top team in Section 2. After about two hours of real time and fifty minutes of hockey, they still don't know.
West Allegheny forward and leading goal-getter Jon Levitt scored twice, and Austin Kronz became the third different defenseman to score for Montour (3-3-2) early in the third period, but that was all the offense either team could muster the rest of the way, as the section co-leaders skated to a 3-3 tie at the Airport Ice Arena.
Matt Penz turned aside 24 shots for the Spartans to earn his second draw and raise his personal record to 2-0-2, though Montour has now gone winless in four straight contests, an 0-3-1 swoon. In his sixth consecutive start Jason Kumpfmiller made 34 saves for the Indians (3-1-2), which, like Penz's total, included several key ones in OT, for his second straight tie. West Allegheny is now riding a 3-0-2 unbeaten streak.
There were no offensive woes early on for West A, which entered the week with a Class AA-low nine goals, as it set up shop inside the Spartans' zone after Montour's first quality chance. It didn't take long for defenseman Christopher Allison to find a loose puck at the right point and rip a shot over the glove hand of Penz for his first tally of the year to give the Indians a 1-0 lead just 1:52 into the game.
With West Allegheny pressing for its second goal right away Penz kept his poise, and so did Kumpfmiller. One of the top five starters in the classification in all major categories, he denied Josh Castelveter on a partial breakaway, and when Castelveter drew simultaneous minor penalties on the play, Kumpfmiller made one good save after another on the highest-scoring power play in the classification to kill the two-man advantage.
"He's unbelievable," West Allegheny forward Derek Schade said when asked about Kumpfmiller. "[He] got us through countless games last year, and he's done it again this year."
The Indians were a little more opportunistic on special teams, needing only one penalty, a tripping call, call to pad their lead. Levitt picked the pocket of a Montour defender deep in the offensive zone and quickly shot the puck through the legs of an unprepared Penz with 4:39 left in the first to make it 2-0 West A. It was Levitt's fourth overall goal and first power-play score of the season.
The Spartans' own scoring leader, Zach Milnarcik, who entered Monday's contest with 19 points, sniped a couple quality shots as well, but one skittered along the goal line without completely crossing, and early in the second period, with Montour on its third power play chance of the night, another skipped off Kumpfmiller's glove and just wide. As was the case with the home team, it would be a D-man who did get the visitors on the board soon thereafter.
Off a faceoff win by the Spartans, Nick Randazzo got open in the high slot and pinballed a shot off the near post and into the twine for his second of the year 2:10 into the frame to cut West Allegheny's lead in half. After the Indians were unable to regain their two-goal lead with Randazzo in the box for interference, a snake-bitten Milnarcik just missed tying the game, beating Kumpfmiller but hitting the far post from close range.
Penz certainly did his part to preserve that score too. He robbed Jacob Druga point blank with a glove save and stopped Jared DiSanti on an odd-man rush from down low on the left side, at which point Milnarcik finally got a bounce.
When Montour generated a two-on-one of its own, he made a nice pass from right to left to defenseman Nick White, who tapped it by a scattering Kumpfmiller just as the net was dislodged for his second goal of the season to pull the Spartans even with 2:55 till intermission. However, Levitt untied the score just 1:47 later, taking a puck in the neutral zone, turning on the jets for a breakaway, and beating Penz with a pretty move on his forehand to give the Indians a 3-2 advantage after two periods.
Kronz struck for his second goal of the campaign, and ultimately, the most important one of the contest, with 10:15 left in the third. He shot a puck from the left point that somehow eluded a bevy of bodies and caught Kumpfmiller leaning the wrong way, giving the Spartans the equalizer.
"I've known [Kumpfmiller] since we were kids, and he's always been a strong goalie," Kronz said afterward. "That goal came off a great pass."
With 7:43 left in the period Randazzo was assessed a questionable interference call, then four minutes later took a more ill-advised shot at Levitt that led to a roughing minor, so the Spartans had to spend much of the rest of the third on their heels. Nevertheless, Penz stood tall on both occasions, and after West Allegheny head coach Tim Veach used his timeout following the second of those penalties, Levitt failed to bury a bouncing puck right in front of the Montour goal crease.
"He definitely bailed us out a few times," a smiling Kronz said of his own goaltender.
Montour turned the offensive tables in the overtime period, especially when Castelveter got in front of Allison early in the frame and had a clear path to the net. Allison slashed away Castelveter's stick before he could get a shot on goal, but West A caught a bit of a break when officials awarded the Spartans with a power play, not a penalty shot. The Spartans could not score on the man-advantage that followed head coach Dustin Kerr's timeout.
Moments later Levitt showed great determination by shoveling the puck—and himself—past two Spartan defenders and somehow getting a shot on Penz, albeit not a clean one, that narrowly avoided crossing the line. A frustrated Levitt went on to take an interference penalty, but the West Allegheny defense, the top-ranked unit in Double-A with just nine goals allowed beforehand, rose to the challenge as the five-minute extra session expired.
"It was definitely getting chippy toward the end," Schade said. "But I thought we responded well."
Next up for West Allegheny is a home date with Pine-Richland in two weeks, and Montour will also play out of section when it travels to Ice-O-Plex Thursday, December 2 to take on Peters Township.
BY THE WAY:
*With two assists, including the primary one on Kronz's goal, forward Zachary Schwartz moved into a tie for Montour's team lead in assists with ten. Milnarcik's pass that set up White's goal was his tenth as well.
*Levitt now has a goal in his last four games, though he did not play in West Allegheny's 1-1 decision at Erie Cathedral Prep Nov. 15. This matches his longest goal streak from last season, which went from Oct. 29 through Nov. 16, 2009 (including back-to-back games against Montour with a goal apiece).
*The tie snapped West A's seven-game win streak over Montour, including playoffs, but extended the Indians' unbeaten streak in the series to nine. The Spartans have not beaten them since a 10-2 victory at RMU Island Sports Center Nov. 6, 2006.
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