Bethel Park advances to Penguins Cup with victory over Penn-Trafford
Bethel Park's hallmark all season has been its defense, and it showed against the highest-scoring team in Class AAA.
Zachary Volzer and Jacob Worcester scored third-period goals to send the Black Hawks to the PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup final with a 3-2 win over top-seeded Penn-Trafford in a semifinal at the RMU's Island Sports Center.
Jacob Brown also scored for Bethel Park (17-7-1), which will face Peters Township in the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday at Consol Energy Center. Dan Maier scored both goals for Penn-Trafford (20-3-1).
It will be a return trip to Consol for Bethel Park, as the Black Hawks' 2011 season ended with a 5-2 semifinal loss to Canon-McMillan in that building. But more important than the venue is the chance to play for a championship.
"We lost a lot of good players off (last year's) team. This is really a brand new team," Bethel Park coach Jim McVay said. "Playing at Consol again, I could care less. I don't care if we play on a pond. The important thing is that we won today and have an opportunity to play again."
Penn-Trafford entered the postseason with 146 goals scored, 30 more than any other Class AAA team. But Bethel Park allowed just 42 - fewest in the league — and in the semifinals, the Black Hawks dictated the pace of play.
"(Penn-Trafford's) top guys, you can't stop them completely. Maier might be the best scorer I've ever seen," McVay said. "It took a six-man effort to slow them down, and we really survived at the end."
The Black Hawks created havoc in the neutral zone throughout the game, as they forced repeated Penn-Trafford turnovers and neutralized the skill of the Warriors' forwards.
"They did a nice job of clogging the neutral zone," Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke said. "I thought we adjusted and did a good job moving the puck quicker, but give credit to Bethel Park. They don't win fancy or big; they do what they need to do to win."
Volzer put Bethel Park ahead, 2-1, after a Penn-Trafford turnover in the neutral zone. Daniel Yost's initial shot was blocked, but the puck fell into the path off Volzer, who calmly slid the puck into the open net.
Worcester added to the lead with four minutes remaining, but Maier scored his second goal by hammering home a feed by Conlan Sodrosky from behind the net with 2:31 to play.
That set up a frantic finish, as Bethel Park goalie Alex Blum made the biggest of his 25 saves in the final two minutes. The Warriors pulled their netminder, Michael Cheswick, in the final minute, but they were unable to get a shot through to the Bethel Park goal with the extra skater.
Brown opened the scoring when he carried the puck off the right side boards and fired a shot toward traffic in front of the Penn-Trafford net. The puck deflected off a defender in the crease and bounced into the net to give the Black Hawks a 1-0 lead after 4:50 of play.
The Warriors had only one shot in the first period, but Maier made it count, as he moved the down the left side and cut to the front of the net to tie the score with an unassisted goal.
Peters Township 6, Canon-McMillan 4 — The fifth-seeded Indians scored four goals in the first period and held on for the semifinal victory.
Davan Groom scored a hat trick for Peters Township (17-5-3), and Patrick Hannan had two scores. Trevor Recktenwald had a goal and assist.
Anthony Tonkovich had two goals for No. 2 Canon-McMillan (20-4).