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Armstrong hockey team loses first game in waning seconds

| Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 11:51 p.m.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong captain Hunter Grafton shoots against North Hills on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Robert Morris Island Sports Center.
LEADER TIMES FILE
Armstrong’s Christian Miller (right) leads PIHL Class AA with 25 goals, entering Tuesday’s games.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong's Jamie Contrael (left) and North Hills' Brendan Shevchik race for a loose puck on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Robert Morris Island Sports Center.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong's Hunter Grafton (center) stickhandles toward North Hills defenders Brendan Shevchik (left) and Jeremiah Polaski on Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Robert Morris Island Sports Center.
Bill Shirley | For The Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong's Jeff Jonovich (right) and a North Hills defender race for a loose puck Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, at Robert Morris Island Sports Center.

It was a memorable night in many ways for Armstrong hockey, even if the final moments were ones to forget.

Armstrong's first game as a combined Kittanning and Ford City program ended with a loss in the final seconds, as North Hills freshman John Siebert scored with 10 seconds remaining to break a tie and hand the Indians a 6-4 win Monday at the RMU Island Sports Center.

Christian Miller scored the first-ever goal for the Riverhawks (0-1-0) and ended with a hat trick, and Jacob Snyder added the other goal for Armstrong.

Tyler Volz scored two goals for North Hills (1-0-0), which also got goals from Brett Berner and Dillon Scott. Tyler Heisel added an empty-net goal.

“North Hills played a good game. They outplayed us in the first period,” Armstrong coach Doug Anthony said. “I think our guys were a little nervous coming in, and it showed, but we played a good second period, and there was a lot of back-and-forth hockey in the third.”

The Riverhawks trailed 4-2 for much of the second period until the waning moments, when Miller took the game over in the final minute.

Miller scored an unassisted goal on a wraparound at the near, left post to cut the lead to 4-3 with 57 seconds left. Armstrong went on the penalty kill after an elbowing call on John Phelps, but a blocked shot at the North Hills point sent the puck back to center ice. Miller was first to the loose puck and scored on a shorthanded breakaway that tied the game, 4-4, with one second to go in the period.

“It feels good to get a few goals in the first game,” Miller said. “As a team, we didn't play a bad game, they were just a bit faster than us to the puck tonight. We have to pick it up for the next game.”

The third period saw both teams create chances, but Armstrong had the better ones.

Nick Long and Luke Gross struck the crossbar in the final seven minutes, and with just 34 seconds left, Miller had a shot to put the game away. Gross carried the puck into the attacking zone with a 2-on-1 chance on the left and played the puck across to Miller, who shot quickly but was denied by North Hills goalie Kaden Mahsoob.

“I definitely want to have that one back. I shot right away, and I should have deked,” Miller said. “I saw that he was back in his crease most of the game, so I shot, but I regretted it right away.” “Christian had a great game tonight, and on that 2-on-1, I thought he was going to bury it,” Anthony said. “The goalie did a good job of standing his ground.”

North Hills then came the other direction, and a deflected centering pass from the right by Jeremiah Polaski popped up off the ice and fell to the stick of Siebert for the winner at the back post.

Despite the difficult end, Anthony was happy with the debut performance of the Riverhawks in a tough road game.

“We faced some adversity, but there was no bickering on the bench. They knew they had work to do, and there was no hanging their heads,” Anthony said. “We get to come back at home on Thursday, and we'll bounce back.”

Among the firsts for the blue-and-orange clad Hawks were Miller scoring the first goal in just 19 seconds on an assist by Phelps. Phelps also had the team's first penalty on a roughing call at the 8:22 mark of the first period, while Armstrong goalie Taylor Smouse had 17 saves in the team's debut.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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