Mars, Quaker Valley set for PIHL Penguins Cup finals rematch
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One bad bounce wasn't going to shake Mars.
Not even one that came so early — or during a game with so much on the line.
These Planets have been here far too often to get rattled that easily.
Max Master had a goal and an assist, and Mars came back to advance to the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup championship game for the sixth consecutive year with a 4-1 win against Westmont Hilltop on Monday night at RMU's Island Sports Center. Mars will meet defending champion Quaker Valley in the title game.
The Planets stayed the course after Hilltoppers captain J.J. Cavrak scored 18 seconds in off a shot that perhaps was an own goal by Mars' Michael McCann.
“There's a lot of big-game experience in this room,” Mars coach Steve Meyers said. “When we gave up that first one, no one panicked.”
Reed Salada and McCann scored 1:46 apart beginning 4:14 into the second, and Ed Schwadron and Master each had goals among the final 2:22 for No. 2 seed Mars (19-3-1), which advances to the title game March 20.
The Class A championship will be the first of a tripleheader that day at Consol Energy Center.
The Planets have played in that game every year since 2008, back when it was still at Mellon Arena.
“It's unbelievable going as a freshman,” said McCann, a defenseman who had only one goal during the regular season.
McCann was in the third grade the last time a Penguins Cup Class A title game was played without Mars.
“I know we've got a history going here, and it feels great to be a part of it,” he said.
The Planets won three consecutive Penguins Cups from 2009-11 but lost in the final last season to Quaker Valley.
In three games against Westmont Hilltop this season, Mars allowed a total of three goals. Westmont Hilltop averaged 5.2 against everybody else.
No. 4 Westmont Hilltop (15-8-1) managed two shots on goal the final 16:42 of the first period and five shots in the second period. The Planets killed off two Hilltoppers power plays during what was still a one-goal game in the third.
“A 2-1 game with four minutes to go, we drew it up on the power play and got three good looks at it,” Westmont Hilltop coach Art McQuillan said. “Credit to them, they defended.
“All game, it seemed we were perpetually digging the puck out from our own end. You're not going to score many goals from behind your own blue line.”
Mars' Christian Knapp made 16 saves.
“I really didn't have much trouble with any of those saves,” Knapp said. “The guys were really limiting the chances and playing shutdown defense. I can't say enough about them.”
Quaker Valley back in title game
Ryan Dickson had two goals and Connor Quinn three assists, and No. 1 seed Quaker Valley extended its perfect season with a 4-1 win against Kittanning in the semifinal nightcap at RMU's Island Sports Center Monday.
Clayton Bouchard added a goal and an assist, Parker Sherry made 28 saves and James Perkins also scored for the defending state champion Quakers (24-0), who advanced to the title game for the fifth time in the past eight seasons.
“We definitely have the most depth of any team in this league, and that helped us tonight,” Dickson said. “We have three solid lines that can produce and play defense and are strong lines. I trust any of the three lines out against anybody's top line even.”
Hunter Grafton broke up the shutout with a power-play goal with 1:37 to play for No. 6 Kittanning (14-9-1), which lost in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive season.
“We knew we'd have to play a perfect game to beat them,” Wildcats coach Jamie King said. “And you know what? We played pretty well tonight. It just wasn't quite enough.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
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