UPG captures Collegiate Ice Hockey Association Division III national title

| Thursday, April 10, 2014, 10:18 p.m.

Play your game.

That was the message Pitt-Greensburg hockey coach Tim Baldwin delivered to his players last weekend, and it paid off in a big way.

The Bobcats beat the University of California-San Diego, 2-0, to capture the 2014 Collegiate Ice Hockey Association Division III national championship Saturday in Newark, Ohio.

Pitt-Greensburg played in a number of high-scoring games throughout the regular season and the playoffs, but the Bobcats brought home the Founder's Cup by displaying an ability to grind out a victory in the tight-checking title game.

“For the most part, we stuck with our game plan,” Baldwin said. “We made adjustments when we needed to, but mostly we stayed with our game and what's worked for us all year.

“We played Bobcat hockey.”

Thanks to the team's recent success, the Bobcats have gained quite a following in the area. Baldwin and his players are grateful for the support they received all season.

“The support we received from the university and the community has been great,” Baldwin said. “They really pushed this program throughout the year.”

Against UC-San Diego, the Bobcats got a fortunate bounce on the power play to take a 1-0 lead late in the first period.

A shot caromed off the glass, then off the back of the UC-San Diego goalie before finding its way into the net. Junior Anthony Maroadi was credited with the goal.

Pitt-Greensburg extended its advantage to 2-0 in the second stanza on a back-door play. Maroadi notched his second goal of the game when he buried a one-timer off a pass from fellow junior Nico Vecchio to secure the Bobcats' two-goal advantage.

“We're used to scoring more goals, but we dug through it and capitalized on the opportunities we had,” Baldwin said. “We played a tough opponent. They were a really hard-working, hustling team.”

Bobcats' junior goaltender Ryan Palonis took over from there, making the two-goal lead stand up the rest of the way.

Palonis turned away every shot that came his way to earn the shutout between the pipes.

“That was one of the greatest weekends of hockey I've seen,” Baldwin said of his netminder's play in the CIHA national tournament. “He was standing on his head.”

The Bobcats defeated Union, 9-3, in the national quarterfinals, then bested Xavier in the semifinals, 7-5.

Vecchio earned tournament MVP honors after scoring in three games.

The Bobcats finished the 2013-14 season with a 24-6 record, including a 5-0 run through the playoffs.

Pitt-Greensburg's offensive prowess was evident throughout the season. The team lit the lamp 285 times on the year and averaged 9.5 goals per game on the way to a national championship.

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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