For a team full of rising stars on offense, it seems unusual for West Allegheny to have to win games on the heels of solid defense early on, but the Indians played another gritty game and found success against one of the more stubborn defensive squads in Class AA.
Jason Kumpfmiller made 44 saves and Jon Levitt spoiled an otherwise outstanding varsity debut by Kumpfmiller's counterpart, freshman Brian Baker, by scoring with just over seven minutes left in regulation to give West Allegheny a 2-1 victory over visiting Peters Township in a non-section "battle of the Indians" at the Airport Ice Arena in Moon Township Monday.
Baker, who stopped 43 West A shots, made several key saves, as did Kumpfmiller, to keep Peters in a game that was not without quality scoring chances on both sides, but also not without good back-checking and effective team defense at both ends.
Peters enjoyed a number of those chances early in the game as West Allegheny tried to find its legs, but Kumpfmiller kept his poise to keep the game scoreless, as did Baker, who certainly did not look like a freshman when the home team started to generate momentum on offense later in the first period.
Both schools benefited from a strong effort on the penalty kill, but it was West A getting onto the board first at the beginning of the second period just moments after a two-man advantage expired. Off the opening faceoff the host Indians stormed the crease, and Jacob Druga fired one past Baker from close range for his first goal of the year to give West Allegheny a 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the frame.
Although West A continued pressing the issue throughout the period, the visiting Indians kept on counter-punching and finally tied the game late in the second thanks to a great individual effort by Alex Dagnal. Dagnal forced the puck past two defensemen and beat Kumpfmiller between the legs on a backhand shot for his second goal of the season with 2:44 to go.
Once again, both teams skated fluidly to begin the third period, but West Allegheny's offensive determination finally paid off midway through. Derek Schade, the team's leading scorer after two games, made a drop pass to an open Jon Levitt from behind the Peters Township goal. Levitt got just enough on his wrist shot to feather it past the right shoulder of Baker and put West A ahead to stay with 7:18 left in regulation, his second goal in three games.
"I was wide open in front, and it was a great pass by Derek, so it was easy to bury," Levitt said afterward.
"After the second period we told our kids it was going to be a gritty game, and that it wouldn't be won pretty," said Levitt's first-year head coach, Tim Veach. "Sure enough, that goal came on a gritty play."
A 6-on-4 penalty kill in the final minute with Baker pulled sealed the win, which brings West Allegheny to 2-1-0 on the young season, good for first place in Section 2, while Peters Township fell to 1-2-0, remaining second in Section 1. West Allegheny hosts Elizabeth Forward in another non-section game next Monday, while Peters Township also plays out of section against Erie Cathedral Prep in the Indians' official home opener Friday.
BY THE WAY...
*This was the first varsity appearance of the season by West Allegheny defenseman and team captain Derek Allman, who had missed the first two games after taking a puck to the jaw.
*Oddly enough, Peters Township has also had to play without its captain and number one blue-liner, but this one did not return Monday. Mike Amelio missed his second straight game and could be out till Thanksgiving, according to head coach Rick Tingle, with an undisclosed injury.
*West Allegheny has now won four of its last five regular season meetings with Peters Township since an upset loss in the 2006 Penguins Cup Quarterfinals.
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Our next PIHL Game of the Week features the Bishop Canevin Crusaders and Montour Spartans in another Class AA non-section contest. 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!
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