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Pine-Richland hockey team takes silver

Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal - Pine-Richland's Zach Richey pushes the puck up the ice in the Class AA Penguins Cup finals.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Louis Raggiunti  |  Pine Creek Journal</em></div>Pine-Richland's Zach Richey pushes the puck up the ice in the Class AA Penguins Cup finals.
Louis Raggiunti | Pine Creek Journal - The Pine-Richland ice hockey team returned to the Penguins Cup finals for the first time since 2008.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Louis Raggiunti  |  Pine Creek Journal</em></div>The Pine-Richland ice hockey team returned to the Penguins Cup finals for the first time since 2008.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

The Pine-Richland hockey squad has made significant strides under coach Mike Bagnato. The team went from missing the playoffs to making them, then advancing to the semifinals last season. The 2013 season saw the Rams make their return to the big stage thanks to a thrilling upset over Bishop Canevin in the Penguins Cup semifinals.

The turnaround was nearly complete, and although the Rams fell just short of another Penguins Cup crown with a 5-0 loss to Latrobe, Bagnato still considers this a great season.

“There is no easy answer for how the players feel now,” Bagnato said moments after his team collected the silver medal. “I have been on both sides of this. This team grew as a team all season, and I hope they remember how they beat Canevin to get here and remember getting here.

“I am proud of them, and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”

For the first 17 minutes of play, the Rams controlled the flow of the game. Rams goalie Brendan Bagnato made some tremendous saves, and the team killed off a power play and kept the Wildcats off the board.

“We had chances,” Bagnato said. “They are a very good hockey team. Our strength all season has been playing as a team, system-wise. We did that in the first period and stuck to the game plan we wanted to play.”

But even the best-laid plans can be derailed by an error, and unfortunately for the Rams, a three-minute stretch midway through the second period yielded two errors. Suddenly, the Rams were in a 3-0 hole.

“We made a couple of little mistakes and could not get enough shots on (Latrobe goalie) Shane (Brudonk) to get pressure on him,” Bagnato said. “Shane played a good game. There is a reason he was the top goalie in the league. When he is in a groove, it is hard to beat him.”

Bagnato said a goal in the second could have sparked a rally, but none of the Rams talented forwards could solve Brudonk, even late in the third with a series of power-play opportunities.

The Rams will now forge into the future with hopes of getting back to the finals next season. The team will have to do so without a core of players who were key to the Rams' return to prominence: captain Zach Richey, fellow forwards Dillon Kessy, Drew Berkhoudt, Tyler Makita, Will Burgman, defenseman Michael Oakes and Bagnato in net.

Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or jeclark@tribweb.com.

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