Peters Township, North Allegheny meet in finale of Penguins Cup trifecta
There's no truth to the rumor that Peters Township hockey coach Rick Tingle has placed a media embargo on his players this week.
Even though he'd probably like to.
The Indians are playing in a PIHL Penguins Cup championship game for the third consecutive year. Although Tingle said only three players remain from the 2011 team that lost to Bishop Canevin in the Class AA title contest, he's taking no chances of the two straight championship defeats getting into his players' heads.
“That's not even on anybody's mind,” Tingle said. “As long as I don't have them read ... the papers, it won't be on anybody's mind.”
Reports are likely to leak by the time No. 1 seed Peters Township (19-4) plays No. 3 North Allegheny (17-4-2) in the Class AAA championship game 9 p.m. Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
That game is the nightcap of a championship tripleheader, beginning with the Class A game at 5 p.m. and the Class AA contest to follow.
The Indians-Tigers game is a rematch of a two-game “mini series” in mid-December. Peters Township won the first meeting, 6-4, Dec. 11, and North Allegheny won, 2-1, two days later.
“The key there is going to be beating (Peters Township goalie Brian Baker),” North Allegheny coach Jim Black said. “He stood on his head both times against us; we've got to get traffic in front and keep pressure on him.”
Baker's 2.23 regular-season goals-against average was second among Class AAA starting goalies to North Allegheny's Brad Thornburgh (1.98).
Offensively, the Indians' Trevor Recktenwald was second in the classification in scoring during the regular season with 67 points in 18 games. Linemates Adam Alavi (51 points) and Alexander Debolt (50 points) also are among the PIHL's top offensive talents.
North Allegheny's Joe Griffin had 21 goals in 20 games, but the Tigers' forte is defense. Their 37 goals against in 21 games were the fewest among Class AAA teams during the regular season.
“Nobody can beat us 5-on-5; we know that,” Thornburgh said. “Coach has stressed it so much that we just need to stay out of the box, and that's how we're going to win games.”
No. 4 Pine-Richland (16-4-1) and No. 2 Latrobe (18-3) tied for the Class AAA lead in goals with 6.5 per game during the regular season. During the playoffs, though, the Rams and Wildcats have thrived largely with their defense.
“We're playing defensive-minded hockey right now at a time we need to, and the team's peaking at the right time,” Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. “And it definitely helps to have (Shane Brudnok) in the net. We're playing extremely well right now.”
Latrobe has allowed only two goals in two playoff games to continue a late-season run in which the Wildcats were scored upon just nine times in their past seven games.
Of course, the most recent time Latrobe lost was to Pine-Richland, 3-2, Feb. 13. That day, the Rams avenged a 4-1 Wildcats win in December.
“The atmosphere and everything around our team right now is so surreal,” Pine-Richland coach Mike Bagnato said. “To say that we are happy or pleased with where we are is probably an understatement.
“This team has grown so much and played so much and learned how to play like a team and worked hard, and now it's accomplished the goal of getting to Consol. And now that we're there, now we go to the next goal.”
Winners of all three Penguins Cup title games play their respective Flyers Cup champions in the Pennsylvania Cup championship games Saturday in Aston, Pa.
If it's the Class A Penguins Cup championship, Mars must be in it. Or Quaker Valley.
Or, increasingly, both.
The game between the No. 1 Quakers (24-0) and No. 2 Planets (19-3-1) is a rematch of last season's title game won by Quaker Valley. The two also played in the 2008 championship game — and at least one or the other has been represented at Mellon Arena and, later, Consol Energy Center for eight years running.
The Planets are playing in the championship contest for the sixth consecutive year; the Quakers are making their fifth appearance since 2006. Each team has won three previous titles in that time.
“We've been rivals for a while now,” Quakers senior Ryan Dickson said. “We have to come out strong and set the tone early and score and just give them a battle because they're a pretty good team.”
Quaker Valley won both previous regular-season meetings: 5-2 at home Nov. 15 and, 4-0, at Mars on Feb. 12.
“It's going to take a perfect effort to beat them,” Planets coach Steve Meyers said. “They're a good team, and they're so deep. But I think we match up pretty well against them if we keep our heads and don't get into penalty trouble.”