North Allegheny, Latrobe win state hockey titles; Quaker Valley rally falls short
Four was the magic number for the Penguins Cup champs in this year's state hockey finals.
North Allegheny senior Joe Griffin scored four goals to lead the Tigers to the Class AAA title, Latrobe took its fourth state title in Class AA and defending Class A champ Quaker Valley nearly rallied from a four-goal deficit in this year's Pennsylvania Cup championships at Ice Works Skating Complex in Aston Township.
Griffin's four-goal performance led North Allegheny to its second state title with a 6-2 win over La Salle College after his Tigers fell behind, 2-0, in the first period.
But North Allegheny (19-4-2) took control of the game with a natural hat trick by Griffin, whose third goal came unassisted on the power play and gave his team the lead for good with 53.9 seconds left in the second period.
“I'm just so blessed to have this opportunity,” Griffin said. “For me to be able to do that for my team, it's an honor for me, really.”
“It's probably a dream for him to do that in this setting, but I've seen him do that since he was a mite,” North Allegheny coach James Black said. “He's always stepped up for the big games, right back to his pee-wee days. I don't think (La Salle) had an answer for him when he cut across the high slot.”
Griffin turned into provider for the Tigers' fourth goal as he and Matthew Fantaski set up Dominick Zangaro after La Salle (22-4-1) hit the post on the other end just seconds before.
North Allegheny's momentum was halted, but not by La Salle. One of the dividers between the glass broke and caused a 20-minute delay with 11:09 left in the game.
“We talked during the break about how we had to come out like it was the start of a new period,” Griffin said. “We came out like it was a 0-0 game with 11 minutes left in my career here at NA.”
“La Salle is obviously a real good team, but we threw a real aggressive forecheck at them,” Black said. “Even though they got the two early goals there, our boys just kept after them and stuck to the game plan.”
Bradford Thornburgh made 25 saves in goal for NA, including 14 in the final period to hold off a late push by La Salle. The Tigers put the game away with two empty-net goals in the final two minutes by Fantaski and Griffin.
Latrobe 4, Parkland 1 — A nearly perfect game for Latrobe started out with the team trying to be too perfect.
Latrobe dominated throughout its championship game against Parkland as the Wildcats won their fourth Pennsylvania Cup in six years and maintained their perfect record in state title games with a 4-1 win.
Freshman Dalton Hunter scored two goals, including the game winner, and Christopher Johnson and Adam Ferguson also scored for Latrobe (20-3-0), which outshot Parkland (20-2-1) by a 41-9 margin.
“It's absolutely unbelievable,” Hunter said. “It was the last game for our seniors, so we wanted it for them. All of them won a state title as freshmen, so we wanted to carry that on and do it again.”
The Wildcats were the team in control from the start, and they recorded the first 15 shots on goal before Parkland finally put a puck on the net with 1:41 left in the first period.
But for all of Latrobe's dominance in possession and shots, the first period ended scoreless.
“We wanted to control play from the drop of the puck through the entire game,” Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. “We got it done, but some of our shot selection was bad. We were going too much for the pretty goal and not getting the puck to the net and grinding it out.”
While Latrobe was peppering the net trying to be precise, Parkland got on the scoreboard first with some hustle and a good bounce.
The Wildcats were on the power play with the puck in the neutral zone when an errant pass skipped right into the path of Parkland's Ryan Dumbach. Dumbach carried the puck into the Wildcats zone with speed and fired a shot that took an awkward bounce to beat Latrobe goalie Shane Brudnok.
“We knew we were outplaying them,” Hunter said. “I think them getting that goal helped us because the momentum started shifting their way. They got a lucky bounce with their third shot, and I think that made us realize we had to pick up our game.”
Less than two minutes later, Latrobe got its first goal on its 24th shot when Johnson hammered the puck home on an assist from behind the net by Joshua Singley.
With just 2:30 left in the second period, Hunter scored a wraparound goal on the power play that would put his team ahead for good.
West Chester East 6, Quaker Valley 5 —Defending champ Quaker Valley's attempt to win back-to-back state titles came up just short after a furious third-period rally.
The Quakers scored three goals in the final 9:47 of the game but couldn't get a game-tying fourth in a 6-5 loss to West Chester East in the first championship game of the day.
Jimmy Perkins had two goals for the Quakers (25-1-0), while East (24-2-0) got two goals each from Zach Higgins and Jesse Abarca, who scored the game-winning goal on a shorthanded breakaway early in the third period.
Abarca's breakaway made the score 6-2, but QV got power-play goals on a slap shot from the point by Alex Quinn and a back-door tap-in by Ryan Dickson to cut the lead in half with 8:56 remaining.
Connor Quinn scored from close range with 24 seconds remaining and an extra skater on the ice for QV, but the Quakers were unable to score a game-tying goal on their final rush.
“We really responded well and played a hell of a third period,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “Watching that made me really proud of Quaker Valley.”
The game turned in QV's favor after Chris Rodier put East ahead, 5-1, in the final minute of the second period. A fight broke out in the aftermath of the goal, which resulted in major penalties and game misconducts for East's Bill Stewart and QV's Ryan Lottes.
The Quakers used the scuffle as motivation and came out for the third period with renewed energy. They outshot East in the final period, 12-2, after being outshot in the first two periods, 29-12.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.