Armstrong players make noise in Class AA All-Star Game
It was a banner day for the PIHL's newest team, the Armstrong Riverhawks, in the league's Class AA All-Star Game on Sunday at the RMU Island Sports Center.
Junior Christian Miller scored three goals and had three assists, Hunter Grafton had two goals and four assists, Luke Gross had two goals, including the game-winner, and John Phelps checked in with an assist. They helped the Northeast All-Stars hammer the Southwest, 12-7, in one of four games played at the Neville Island rink.
“It was a great time for us today,” Miller said. “It's great to see this. You're together for about six months out of the year. They want to see me succeed, and I want to see them succeed.”
Armstrong is the combination of the former Kittanning and Ford City hockey programs. The high schools will formally merge in September 2015.
At first, it was open season on goaltenders, as the teams combined for seven goals in the first half of the first period. That put both teams on a pace to score 42 combined goals.
Things settled down, especially in the third period when the Northeast collected the only two goals, and Plum's James Borriello of the Northeast stopped all 17 shots he faced.
West Allegheny sophomore Jess Ligas scored a hat trick for the Southwest, and North Hills junior Brett Berner had a goal and three assists.
Northeast 3, Southwest 2 (OT) — Jonah Graffius wanted to get the Class AAA game over with quickly.
Graffius scored a goal just 20 seconds into overtime to lift the Northeast when the Penn-Trafford senior took a pass from Warriors teammate Jacob Milller.
“Miller and I know how to play together, and I knew where he was going to go with it, and I thought we should end it as soon as possible,” Graffius said. “First shift in overtime and I thought we could catch them off guard early.”
After two scoreless periods, the Northeast finally broke through just 89 seconds into the third period on a goal by Central Catholic's Jesse Yeckel. That was followed less than three minutes later by an unassisted goal from Fox Chapel's Anthony Veltri that just sneaked in through the upper right corner of the goal.
Canon-McMillan's J.D. Oddi, who had some excellent opportunities in the first two periods stopped, got the Southwest's first goal.
With 4:31 left in regulation, Bethel Park's Jake Worcester tied the score on a pass from Blackhawks teammate Derek Lesnak.
Northeast 4, Southwest 2 — Hempfield senior forward Anthony Ciocca, who missed last season due to multiple injuries, led the Northeast with a goal and an assist.
“We have a great team, and we worked well together,” Ciocca said. “I just wanted to bust my butt off for everyone because it's an All-Star Game I wanted to give it my all.”
Ciocca assisted on Hempfield teammate senior forward Avery Lavella's goal to extend the Northeast lead to 2-0 in the middle of the second period. Ciocca added a late second-period goal with an assist from Hempfield senior defenseman Mike Donofrio.
“I just wanted to give it my all in my last all-star game,” Ciocca said.
Hempfield sophomore goaltender Garett Ciaramella made a game-high 24 saves. Ciaramella fended off a late surge by the Southwest, as the top two scorers in the Open Class, Harborcreek's Logan Conboy and Nick Rocco, were trying to get on the scoresheet.
Indiana senior forward Camden Lydick started off the scoring for the Northeast in the first period, and Greensburg Salem's junior forward Vinnie DeFazio added another goal in the second. Southwest had goals from Blackhawk's Robbie Swinderman and Wheeling Central's Michael Tighe.
Southwest 9, Northeast 6 — South Park junior forward Mclean Walton scored two consecutive goals in the second period and had an assist in the first period to lead the Southwest.
Thomas Jefferson senior forward Nick Tamburi and Mars senior forward Nick Makozy, who are tied for fifth in scoring in Class A, each tailed four points — one goal and three assists — to along with Walton's three points.
Walton's goals came off assists from Tamburi and Makozy and came in similar fashion, in front of the net.
“I was just sitting in front of the net just waiting for the puck to come,” Walton said. “It was fun just going out there and playing.”
Quaker Valley senior defenseman Ryan Lottes started the scoring with an assist from Quaker Valley teammate senior defenseman Alex Quinn in the first period.
Freeport's sophomore forward Michael Frazetta led the scoring for the Northeast with two goals, one in the middle of the first period and another in the middle of the third period.
George Guido and Andrew John are freelance writers.