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Franklin Regional hockey takes another shot at state gold

| Thursday, March 23, 2017, 4:48 p.m.
Franklin Regional's Oldrich Virag celebrates his goal against Indiana during the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup championship game Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Oldrich Virag celebrates his goal against Indiana during the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup championship game Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
Franklin Regional's Mathieu Silva celebrates with Cameron Huffman after Huffman's goal against  Indiana during the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup championship game Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Mathieu Silva celebrates with Cameron Huffman after Huffman's goal against Indiana during the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup championship game Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

With its second Penguins Cup championship secured, Franklin Regional's hockey team has one thing left on its mind — a state championship.

Actually, it's a thought that's been lurking in the players' minds since last year's 6-0 loss to Bayard Rustin in the Pennsylvania Cup game at Penn State.

At noon Saturday, the Panthers (20-1-0) get another shot at the Golden Knights for the Class A state title at RMU Island Sports Center. Penguins Cup champion Plum (Class AA) and Peters Township (Class AAA) will be in action as well.

“Unfinished business,” Panthers senior captain Justin Gismondi said. “We're looking forward to it.”

Bayard Rustin captured its fifth Flyers Cup in the past seven years. The Golden Knights are going for their fourth state crown in a row and fifth in nine years. However, they nearly had their season ended in the Flyers Cup. The squad needed four overtimes to defeat West Chester East, 3-2. It was the longest game in Flyers Cup history. Bayard Rustin goaltender Jason Grande made 60 saves and was named the Flyers Cup MVP.

Nevertheless, Franklin Regional is looking forward to battling the Golden Knights again.

“We wanted to get them again and see what we can do,” Franklin Regional's Olda Virag said. “We'll give everything we have and try to win. States is the ultimate goal.”

The first line of Jamie Mauro, Nick Carretta and Virag helped power the Panthers to last year's Penguins Cup and state championship appearance — the first in program history. The three are back again and even more productive.

In the regular season, Mauro led Franklin Regional with 34 goals and 60 points. Virag was next with 20 goals and 55 points, while Carretta had 17 goals and 45. Virag (6, 10), Mauro (4, 10) and Carretta (3, 8) have been producing in the postseason, as well.

“I think me, Nick and Jamie mesh well together. I love playing with those two guys,” Virag said.

The Panthers have a shown a balance on the scoresheet, too. Five players scored in a 6-1 win over Indiana in the Penguins Cup championship.

“It was good to see that everybody contributed and everyone was putting in everything they could,” Virag said.

Franklin Regional outscored its three postseason opponents 18-5.

The Panthers hope to keep the offense and defense going against Bayard Rustin.

“To win again is a great feeling, but we're not done,” Franklin Regional coach Brian Kurtz said. “We won last year and we were satisfied with that, but, with this team, it's unfinished business and we have a greater goal, and that's to win a state championship.”

Senior Borriello powering Plum

Plum is in the Pennsylvania Cup for the first time since 1989 when it captured the program's only Class A state championship.

The Mustangs (19-2-1) take on Downingtown East at 2:30 p.m. for the AA crown.

The team will look to Anthony Borriello, their senior captain, to help lead the way. He scored his second hat trick in as many games in a 6-1 win over Latrobe in the Penguins Cup championship. He netted three in a 5-2 semifinal triumph over Hempfield.

The Cougars claimed their second Flyers Cup in three years with an 8-3 win over William Tennent, which last won the Flyers Cup in 1989 as well, but in Class AAA.

Another upset for Peters Township?

Peters Township completed its improbable run to the Penguins Cup championship with a 5-2 win over top-seeded Central Catholic. The sixth-seeded Indians knocked off third-seeded Canon-McMillan in the quarterfinals and second-seeded North Allegheny in the semifinals.

During the regular season, Peters Township (13-8-2) went a combined 0-5-1 against those teams.

Now, the Indians turn their attention to Holy Ghost Prep for a 5 p.m. battle in Class AAA. The Firebirds (22-2-1) won their second Flyers Cup title in three seasons. They claimed the state title in 2015.

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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