Ford City wins Chiefs Cup, Wheeling Park captures Nailers Cup
Hats rained down on the ice, and Ford City lifted up a trophy.
Offense was the theme in Thursday's PIHL Open Class Chiefs Cup championship. Jesse Valasek's hat trick led the Sabers to a 7-4 win over Indiana at Robert Morris University's Island Sports Center.
“It's a great feeling. Losing in the playoffs last year, we just wanted to put it to them and show them what we could do,” Valasek said. “We had a bad taste in our mouth. We just wanted to put up as many points as possible.”
Luke Gross and Josh Oliver both scored two goals for Ford City (20-2-1), which moves on to meet Wheeling Park in Monday's Open Cup championship.
Oliver gave Ford City a 1-0 lead 6:10 into the game when his wrister from the right circle sailed past Indiana's Austin Moody. He found the back of the net again with 4:33 remaining to give the Sabers a 2-0 lead.
Valasek's slapper from the left circle gave Ford City a 3-0 edge with 2:05 on the clock.
The Indians (19-3-1), the defending Chiefs Cup champs, got one back 53 seconds later when Jess Bartholow skated across the slot and cashed in on a wrister.
Indiana trimmed the deficit to 3-2 just 50 seconds into the second on Noah Moody's slapper on a two-man advantage.
Ford City's Gross answered 19 seconds after that with a short-handed goal. Knocked down at the top of the crease, he swatted it in from a seated position for a 4-2 lead.
Valasek snuck a shot inside the near post from a bad angle to give the Sabers a 5-2 lead with 10:58 remaining in the second.
The Indians crept back with 2:16 left in the second. Camden Lydick's goal cut the deficit to 5-3.
Following a defensive turnover, Indiana's Bartholow scored on the power play to make the score 5-4 with 27.3 seconds before intermission.
Gross tallied his second goal 5:59 into the third with a wrister to give the Sabers a 6-4 advantage. Valasek wrapped up the hat trick with an empty-net goal with 24.6 seconds to go.
Even short-handed, Wheeling Park rode its power play to the Nailers Cup championship.
The Patriots (19-4), who dressed 10 skaters and a goalie, used three power-play goals to hold off Morgantown, 4-3.
Ian McArdle, a senior, was a presence in front of the net. He scored all three of his man-advantage goals off rebounds.
“Special teams proved to be the difference,” he said. “We had a lot of good shots from the defensemen coming in, and I was just able to bury some rebounds. That's a credit to my teammates.”
Wheeling Park, which lost its two regular-season meetings to the Mohawks, never trailed. The Patriots held a 2-1 lead after the second. Morgantown (18-3-2) managed to even the score at 3 with two power-play goals. However, McArdle completed the hat trick with 2:33 remaining when he swept in a loose puck.
Nicco Catalano had the Patriots' other goal. Connor Leone, Cullen Gookin and Alex Battin all scored for Morgantown.
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.