High school hockey roundup: Peters Township wins, reaches finals again
Facing the top-scoring team and the highest-scoring player he would all season, Peters Township goalie Brian Baker had support in front of him.
“The defense was very strong today,” Baker said Wednesday night outside the locker rooms at the RMU Island Sports Center. “I don't think I could have asked for better defense.”
The Indians couldn't have asked for better goaltending.
Keenan Witmer's second-period goal would be all Baker needed to post his second shutout of the season as Peters Township beat State College, 3-0, in a PIHL semifinal between Class AAA's two highest-scoring teams that produced little offense.
“What I said to the guys was this was a perfect kind of game to go into Consol on, knowing you can be in a game that's 1-0 with five minutes to go and still have the fortitude to pull it out,” Indians coach Rick Tingle said.
No. 1 seed Peters Township (19-4) advanced to a Penguins Cup title game for the third consecutive season. The Indians will play North Allegheny at 9 p.m. March 20 at Consol Energy Center.
Wednesday's game was very much in question until Alexander DeBolt scored with 3:06 to play in the third. Trevor Recktenwald earned an assist on that goal and added an empty-netter with 46.2 left. Linemate Adam Alavi assisted on both late goals for Peters Township, which has won 15 straight.
Baker improved his goals-against average to 2.15 and save percentage to .918. He stopped all 15 shots against No. 5 State College (16-8).
“ ‘Bakes' had a nice game,” Tingle said. “Our guys took care of some shots. The good part was we kept the shots outside. When we keep shots outside, no one's going to score on ‘Bakes.' ”
Baker twice stopped Stefan Horgas on partial breakaway attempts. Horgas was PIHL Class AAA's leader in goals and points during the regular season. Baker, perhaps, was at his best during that stretch, one in which he denied several Little Lions chances during a pair of power plays immediately after the Horgas breakaways.
NA completes comeback
Joe Griffin scored twice, and North Allegheny came back from a pair of one-goal deficits to defeat Bethel Park, 4-3, in the PIHL Class AAA semifinal nightcap Wednesday at the RMU Island Sports Center.
Griffin's rising wrist shot from a sharp angle low in the left-wing circle beat Austin McGinty and gave the Tigers their first lead with 11:19 to play. Griffin's first goal of the playoffs — his 20th on the season — came while short-handed, tying the game 2-2 late in the second.
Charlie Johnson scored earlier in the contest, and Cody Black had what proved to be the winner with 7:37 to play for No. 3 North Allegheny (17-4-2).
Chris Sisak scored twice — including with McGinty pulled for an extra attacker in the final minute — and Ryan Kusmira opened the scoring with a power-play goal for No. 2 seed and defending Penguins Cup champion Bethel Park (17-6).
A critical juncture of the game came when the Tigers' Griffin and Shawn Baird were penalized 12 seconds apart midway through the second.
Although Sisak scored 1:02 later during the resulting 5-on-3, Griffin's short-handed goal 39 seconds after that meant North Allegheny emerged from the Black Hawks' two-man advantage on even footing.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.