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Borriello helps Plum hockey reach title game

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 6:18 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Hempfield's Connor Lawrence defends against Plum during the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA semifinals Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Plum celebrates a first period goal during the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA semifinals against Hempfield on Tuesday, March 14, 2017, at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.

When facing adversity, Plum's hockey team knows it can turn to its leadership.

Senior captain Anthony Borriello answered the call for the Mustangs in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA semifinals. Down 2-1 to Hempfield after a period, Borriello helped spark Plum to the 5-2 victory. He scored three of the team's goals as the Mustangs advanced to the Penguins Cup championship against Latrobe, which was contested after deadline for this edition.

“To finally make it, I really haven't had a better feeling my entire hockey career,” Borriello said. “It means a lot (to score the three goals). Knowing that it could have been my last game, I left it all out there. I wanted to do anything to help my team win.”

The top-seeded Mustangs (18-2-1) have a chance to win a Penguins Cup for the first time since they claimed the 1989 Class A title. That squad went on to win a state championship, as well.

“We're proud of that as a team. I wasn't even born then,” Plum coach Vinnie Somma said.

“It's one step in the right direction, though. We have one more game. Just getting there doesn't mean anything. At the end of the day, we have to win the big game and that's what it comes down to.”

After falling behind 2-1 to Hempfield, Ryan Loebig tied the game 4:10 into the second period. Borriello netted his second goal 4:40 later to put the Mustangs up for good.

“He's the captain. He has to do that. At the end of the day, he steps up. He knows he has a lot on his back, and he doesn't shy away from it,” Somma said. “To be honest, I expect more from him. I am very proud of him, but I need more. He's the captain of our team and we're going to the finals, and he has to bring that every single shift.”

Borriello had confidence that he and his teammates would overcome the Spartans' early advantage.

“Our last playoff game against Shaler, we went down 1-0 and we panicked. We're not used to being down; we went 16-2-1 in the regular season, and we're usually the ones scoring first,” he said. “We got down again, and we had a completely different attitude. We didn't worry and we trusted the system and that the results would show on the scoreboard. That's what happened. We just have to trust that, if we make the right plays and the simple plays, it'll click.”

Plum clung to the slim lead until late in the game when Daniel Baranowski scored with 5:01 to play. Borriello completed the hat trick when he scored into an empty net with 17 seconds remaining.

“That shows a lot of character for us to be able to battle back. A lot of teams will just pack it up,” Plum senior Dillon Joyce said. “I think we all get a little nervous going out there because we're supposed to win. But, if we just keep playing like we're playing, we'll be OK.”

Joyce assisted on four his team's goals, including all three of Borriello's.

“I love making big passes. There's nothing better than helping people score. I love when my linemates score,” he said. “Everyone is stepping it up, and I've seen a lot of improvement from the younger kids.”

Plum planned to tweak its game in hopes of extending its season against the Wildcats.

“We still have a few more steps to go. We had a few breakdowns. Hempfield got a few guys behind us, at times, probably five or six by my count and that's not acceptable from a winning team,” Somma said. “We adjusted to their game very well, and everyone bought into the system and changes. That's why we were successful.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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