Plum celebrates win on outdoor Penguins Pond
Several dozen high school hockey games were on display during the recent Penguins Pond series at the new Highmark Stadium at Station Square in downtown Pittsburgh.
Plum and North Hills capped off the series last Thursday with a spirited game that went down to the wire.
When it was all said and done, the Mustangs stood tall on the outside rink with a 7-6 victory. They were all smiles when they gathered for a team picture around one of the goals with the city's skyline in the background.
“It's cool to go out on top like that (in the final Penguins Pond game),” senior Jordan Gable said.
“This is a night I will never forget. This was a big game for us.”
Gable scored what turned out to be the game winner with 3:42 left in the third period, as his goal, assisted by sophomore David Stonebraker, gave Plum a 7-5 lead.
It was Gable's lone goal of the game, as he assisted on one of Plum's four goals in the second period.
The Mustangs faced a 5-on-3 shorthanded situation at the end of the game, and North Hills scored once to trim the Plum lead to one at 7-6.
However, the Indians, despite maintaining a one-man advantage, wasn't able to get another one past the Mustangs defense or goaltender Taylor Cestra.
“We really just beared down,” Cestra said. “We told ourselves we had to win this game, no matter what. Being a senior and winning this game has been a crazy experience.”
Cestra faced 33 shots in the game and made 27 saves.
“It was incredible and nothing how I've ever played before,” Cestra said. “It's a new scenery. It was a little weird trying to see the puck sometimes with the lights being so bright and the dark sky. Everything kind of blended in.”
Senior forward Andrew Walters tallied a hat trick for Plum. It was his third game with at least three goals this season. He scored nine goals in a two-game stretch in December as the Mustangs beat Franklin Regional, 9-3, and Hampton, 8-5.
Junior Joe Randazzo scored his 19th and 20th goals of the season to help the Mustangs cause. He scored the team's first goal 5:16 into the game on an assist from freshman Zach Nolan and tallied the first of four straight goals between the second and third periods to lift Plum from a two goal deficit into the lead.
“We had a 5-on-3 at the end of the game, and we played great defense,” Randazzo said.
“We just had to keep a physical presence. Our backs are against the wall, and we need every win we can get. It's an honor to play here, and we put on a pretty good show.”
Senior Andrew Pagano also scored a goal, as his tally with 3:17 remaining in the second period tied the game at five and set the stage for the third-period drama.
The surface and the rink is the same one the Penguins used when they played the Washington Capitals in the Winter Classic at Heinz Field two years ago.
“I grew up playing with friends on ponds,” Gable said.
“I didn't have the space in my backyard (for a pond), but I would always be over at friends' houses that did. It's really fun to go back and know you started playing on ice outside.”
Gable said the Penguins Pond is good for high school hockey.
“You drive across the Parkway and look across the river to see a hockey rink in the middle of the soccer field,” he said.
“The placement of (the rink) to all the advertising brings attention to the league, and it should bring in more guys because they want to do something like this. It's fun to see the league giving opportunities like this.”
Gable, as well as Cestra, Walters, Pagano, Todd Ruggiero, Nick Sciulli, James D'Andrea, Zach Crawford, Dom Macioce and Derek Zgibor will move on because of graduation, but they always will have the memories of the game and the victory.
“I would've love to see them do it again next year,” Gable said.
“I will be graduating and going on to college, but if the guys get to do it again, I will certainly come back and watch them. This is a great atmosphere for hockey.”
Plum improved to 4-6-1 on the season.
The Mustangs snapped a two-game losing streak and bounced back from a tough 4-2 loss to Kiski Area three nights earlier.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org