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Armstrong stops Latrobe to reach PIHL semifinals

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 10:45 p.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Latrobe's Camron Carr protects the puck from Armstrong's Jacob Snyder on Tuesday March 4, 2014, at Belmont Arena.

The PIHL's newest program made its playoff debut by knocking off one of the league's most successful teams.

No. 3 Armstrong scored the game's first four goals and never trailed on the way to a 7-3 win over defending state champion Latrobe in the PIHL Class AA quarterfinals Tuesday at Belmont Ice Complex

Christian Miller and Nick Long each had two goals and two assists for the Riverhawks (17-5-1), who advanced to face second-seeded Erie Cathedral Prep in the semifinals Tuesday at RMU Island Sports Center. Jacob Snyder, John Phelps and Hunter Grafton also scored goals for Armstrong.

“When we first started conditioning this year, we talked about Latrobe because they were at the top of the ladder,” Armstrong coach Doug Anthony said. “They've won four of the last six state championships, and that's who we had targeted. We want to be them. We want what they have.”

Adam Ferguson, Dan Johnson and Brendan Johns scored for sixth-seeded Latrobe (11-9-3), which got all three of its goals from a power-play unit that finished the night 3 for 9.

“We had too many turnovers tonight. That's what cost us the game,” Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. “We knew Double-A was a lot tougher this year, and it was anybody's game. (Armstrong) is a really good team.”

The Riverhawks pulled ahead on the game's first shift when Miller, the PIHL's leading goal scorer with 48, scored an unassisted goal after just 35 seconds. Armstrong led 2-0 after one period and extended the margin to 4-0 on Grafton's short-handed goal with 10:02 left in the second period.

Latrobe came alive late in the second, as Ferguson and Johnson scored on back-to-back power plays to take the momentum and cut the lead to 4-2 entering the final period.

The Wildcats continued to keep the pressure on, but it was Long who got the next goal for Armstrong with a wrist shot that stopped Latrobe's momentum with 13:37 remaining.

“That goal came out of nowhere. He came down the ice and hit that upper-left corner with a perfectly placed shot that came at the right moment,” Anthony said. “Nick was our player of the game today. He was just a spark plug out there.”

“It wasn't a backbreaker, but it was a disappointment,” Winebrenner said. “We wanted to come out, get the first goal and continue to dictate play, but it didn't happen.”

Armstrong goalie Taylor Smouse finished with 25 saves, as Latrobe outshot the Riverhawks, 28-25.

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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