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Plum hockey rallies past Armstrong

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 11:30 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Plum's James Borriello blocks a shot by Armstrong's Joshua Oliver on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at the Belmont Ice Complex in Kittanning.

Facing a two-goal deficit in the third period, Plum's big guns came through.

David Stonebraker scored twice in the third, and Joe Randazzo completed his hat trick with the winning goal to give the Mustangs a 6-5 win over Armstrong on Thursday night at Belmont Ice Complex.

The win moved Plum (12-5-3) into third place in the Class AA standings with two games to play as teams battle for a top-four seed and a home quarterfinal. Armstrong (12-5-1) fell to fourth but still has four games remaining.

“Frankly, it was a gut-check for us in the locker room (before the third period),” Plum coach Dave Stonebraker said. “We didn't feel we deserved to be down, but we put ourselves in that position and had to battle back.”

Stonebraker's two goals were almost identical. His 25th and 26th goals of the season came on wrist shots from the left side that he placed into right side of the net, and the second one tied the game, 5-5, with 10:49 remaining.

Randazzo capitalized on an Armstrong turnover in the neutral zone by skating into the Riverhawks' zone and scoring unassisted with 8:06 to play. The goal was Randazzo's sixth point of the game and 55th on the season.

Armstrong pressed for the final eight minutes and pulled goalie Taylor Smouse for the last 1:10, but the Riverhawks ended up taking the loss after letting go of a multiple-goal lead in the third period for the second straight game.

“We're in a defensive funk right now,” Armstrong coach Doug Anthony said. “Most of it is mental.”

The Riverhawks built their 5-3 lead with a three-goal game — two by David Contrael and one from Jacob Snyder — from their third line. Christian Miller scored his 39th goal of the year, and Luke Gross also scored for Armstrong, while Dillon Joyce had Plum's other goal.

“Armstrong came into our house and embarrassed us the first time we played, and I say that respectfully because they're a good team,” Dave Stonebraker said. “We knew coming in it would be a tough game, and though you never look ahead, we knew where this date was.”

Plum clinches a top-four seed with a point from its final two games.

Despite the loss, Armstrong will clinch a top-four seed in its first season with wins in at least two of its final four games.

“We don't talk about a section title or anything like that. Our goal is at the end of the season,” Anthony said. “We'll still get a home playoff game, and we'll be prepared for the playoffs.”

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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