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Penn-Trafford's Graffius scores goal in overtime to win PIHL All-Star Game

Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn-Trafford Star - Penn-Trafford forward Jonah Graffius moves through the Shaler defense during a game Nov. 22, 2013, at Center Ice Arena.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lillian DeDomenic  |  For The Penn-Trafford Star</em></div>Penn-Trafford forward Jonah Graffius moves through the Shaler defense during a game Nov. 22, 2013, at Center Ice Arena.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Norwin Star - Norwin defenseman Eli Reith looks to pick up the puck during a game against Penn-Trafford on Jan. 10, 2014, at Center Ice Arena.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Lillian DeDomenic  |  For the Norwin Star</em></div>Norwin defenseman Eli Reith looks to pick up the puck during a game against Penn-Trafford on Jan. 10, 2014, at Center Ice Arena.

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A season's worth of chemistry finally paid off for Jonah Graffius and Jake Miller late in the PIHL All-Star Game on Sunday.

The Penn-Trafford senior forwards, who skate on the same line for the Warriors, teamed up for a goal 20 seconds into overtime to give the Northeast Conference All-Star Team a 3-2 victory over its counterparts from the Southwest Conference. Graffius scored the goal, with Miller picking up the only assist.

“(The chemistry) was huge,” Graffius said. “I think you saw it on the last play. He knew exactly where I was going to be, and I knew exactly where he was going to put the puck. I knew coming into the game it would be a major factor because he's a great player. I know his tendencies, and I was really looking forward to it.”

The Norwin and Penn-Trafford players who competed for the Northeast Conference on Sunday said they enjoyed their experience. Aside from Graffius and Miller, goalie Eric Phelps and defenseman Andy Power represented Penn-Trafford. Defenseman Eli Reith and forwards Tim Palmer and Dante Youhon represented Norwin.

“It was a great experience,” Youhon said. “It was a good opportunity to play with all the best players around the league. It was a lot of fun to get out there and show what we have.”

Northeast Conference coach Mike Guentner took advantage of several of his players' familiarity with each other. In addition to Graffius and Miller, Palmer and Youhon skated together on a line during the game, while Reith and Power were paired together defensively.

“I've known Andy for a long time,” Reith said. “We've played together before, so I kind of know him and know how he plays. It wasn't that hard transitioning, but it was kind of fun playing with him again.”

“You go against (these players) during the regular season, and it's tough,” Power said. “It's nice to be able to play with them. They're right on your skill level, so it makes it easier to adjust. It was fun.”

The game was scoreless for two periods. Phelps started in goal for the Northeast team and made 10 saves during the first period.

“Coming into the game, I knew I was going to get the start,” Phelps said. “I felt confident about myself playing (and) shut them out. I gave our team a chance, kept them in there, tied 0-0 after the first. I thought we had the chance.”

The second period saw more of the same, as goalies Zach Davis (Southwest) and Chad Veltri (Northeast) kept the game scoreless by making key saves.

“They have three of the best goalies in the league, so it was tough to score on them,” Palmer said. “But we put three in, so I guess that's pretty good.”

Jesse Yeckel of Pittsburgh Central Catholic put the Northeast team on the board 1:23 into the third period, and Anthony Veltri of Fox Chapel gave the team a 2-0 lead at 4:28. But Southwest tied the game up with goals at 6:31 and 12:29, paving the way for Graffius' winning goal.

“It was more exciting than some of those high-scoring games,” Graffius said. “When you were down in the defensive zone, you knew you had to get a stick on your guy or you needed to make a play to get it out of the zone. You knew any goal could be the backbreaker or could really hurt you.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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