Westmont Hilltop knocks TJ out of PIHL playoffs
TribLIVE Sports Videos
JOHNSTOWN — After two regular season losses to Westmont Hilltop, Thomas Jefferson probably thought it was due.
Or it could be that the Jaguars are just snake bitten.
Whatever the case, Thomas Jefferson (14-9) could not figure out a way to get past Westmont Hilltop (15-7-1). Defenseman Ian Campbell ripped a slapshot from the left point that wafted through traffic and somehow beat Jaguars goaltender Nick Ripepi at 4:51 of overtime to give the Hilltoppers a 4-3 victory in the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup semifinals at the Cambria County War Memorial.
“We played exactly the way we needed to being short and missing a few players,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Crousey said. “I thought we did exactly what I asked them to do, and we fell a little short. We still had chances to win and it just didn't go our way.”
Thomas Jefferson stumbled at the end of January with consecutive losses to Westmont Hilltop, Quaker Valley and Mars by a combined 16-5 score but had won four consecutive games heading into the playoffs. The Jaguars had leads of 1-0 and 3-2 but allowed the next two goals to the Hilltoppers both times.
But it was the second time that was most costly as Thomas Jefferson clung to a 3-2 lead throughout most of the third period and collapsed in defensively before Brian Yost scored off a faceoff in the Jaguars' zone at 12:20 to send the game to overtime.
Twice Thomas Jefferson forward Matt Bowers, who scored the team's second goal, had breakaway chances in overtime but was stuffed both times by goaltender Sebastian Ragno. The first was just 2:01 into the extra period and the next on his next shift with 6:46 left.
Both times Ragno, who made 32 saves, just got a glove on the wrist shots and turned away what would have been the game-winning goal for the Jaguars.
“I thought he made good shots, and the goalie just made better saves,” Crousey said. “In overtime, you get a shot on net and anything can happen and one got through our guy and that was it.”
Westmont Hilltop has now won its last five and will play either Mars or Quaker Valley in the semifinals Monday at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center at either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. If Freeport defeats Kittanning on Thursday, then Thomas Jefferson plays the top-seeded Quakers. A Kittanning win would earn the Wildcats a date with Quaker Valley and leave the Jaguars and Planets to vie for a spot in the PIHL Class A championship game, which will be played March 20 at the Consol Energy Center.
“They're both very, very good, and we'll take a night and enjoy this one. But in playoff hockey anything can happen,” Westmont Hilltop coach Art McQuillan said. “We're proud of our kids and the effort they put forth in a quality Penguins Cup playoff game.”
Westmont Hilltop was uncharacteristically careless with the puck in the first two periods as Hilltoppers players regularly failed to clear the defensive zone, executed blind drop passes in the neutral zone and didn't press the attack when they had a manpower advantage in the attacking third. Their careless play was most evident late in the second period when, trailing 3-2, they allowed Thomas Jefferson to maintain pressure on the net and throw several solid shots at Ragno well after the puck should have been moved out of the zone.
Perhaps the most egregious Westmont-Hilltop misplay came midway through the second period when a Hilltoppers player was carrying the puck into the Thomas Jefferson zone but inexplicably reached the blue line and dropped a pass to no one in the neutral zone. Jaguars sniper Brandon Mason picked up the loose puck and counterattacked into what became a 2-on-0 in the Westmont Hilltop zone, and he snapped in his 19th goal of the season at 10:12 to give the Jaguars a 3-2 lead they took into the ice cut.
“We got away from our game a little bit, and you have to give TJ credit because they have a lot of skilled forwards and they did a good job of puck possession.” McQuillan said. “We're used to dictating a little more of the flow in our defensive zone and they took us out of it, but we've been a third-period team all year and we've been riding a hot goaltender and that's not a bad thing in the playoffs.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- Renowned strength coach set to visit Kittanning
- Steelers offense learning to slam door
- Pittsburgh police doubling up on duty after potential threats
- Steelers clinch trip to postseason with big victory over Chiefs
- Steelers-Bengals game to start at 8:30 p.m.
- John Browne: Care act isn’t affordable for Americans, economy
- Downie, Farnham bringing a much-needed edge to the Penguins
- Allegheny County district attorney prosecutors move on to state office
- Georgia prosecutor Yates tapped for No. 2 post in Justice Department
- Groom cited at Farmington wedding reception being filmed for reality TV show