Penn-Trafford ready for semifinal clash
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Coming into the 2013-14 season, the Penn-Trafford hockey team wanted to avenge its 3-17-1 finish from 2012-13.
With the PIHL's postseason winding down, the Warriors are doing just that.
Penn-Trafford (14-8) advanced to the Penguins Cup Class AAA semifinals for the second time in three seasons with a 5-4 overtime victory over defending champion North Allegheny last week at BladeRunners in Warrendale. The Warriors will play Peters Township at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“It feels really good, especially after last year and all the losing,” said senior Jonah Graffius, who scored the game-winning goal against North Allegheny. “We knew we had potential this year, and we knew we wanted to kind of make a statement after last year. I think we've done that.”
That the Warriors are still alive is a testament to their resilience, Graffius said. Penn-Trafford began the season by winning 11 of its first 15 games, clinching a playoff spot in the process, but a four-game losing streak dropped the Warriors in the standings.
Penn-Trafford is on a three-game winning streak entering Wednesday's game, including a 4-0 victory over Upper St. Clair in the first round of the playoffs and last week's triumph over North Allegheny.
“I think it says a lot about the character of the team overall that we were able to come together when it really mattered,” Graffius said. “It's easy to lose focus in a 20-game season, especially when you have success at the beginning like we did. But I'm really proud and really happy that we were able to get our focus back, get back on our game and start playing well at the end of the season.”
The Warriors dealt with some adversity for their quarterfinal game against North Allegheny. Three players, including alternate captain Andy Power, were suspended by the PIHL after getting match penalties against Upper St. Clair, and coach Brian Lehneke was also suspended.
But Penn-Trafford began the game strong, taking a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Pat Cortazzo and Jake Miller.
North Allegheny scored with less than a minute left in the first period to cut its deficit to one, then tallied two more goals in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. But Penn-Trafford responded, tying the score on a Jordan Eisenstat goal with 16 seconds left in the second period and taking the lead on Miller's power-play goal at the 11:48 mark of the third.
Again North Allegheny rallied, tying the score with 38.1 seconds remaining in the third.
“There were a lot of heads hanging on the bench,” Graffius said. “But our players have been playing hockey for a long time, most of them, and know things like that happen. They knew all it took was one bounce. While it was really heartbreaking at first, it didn't take much to get our guys back in the game.”
The Tigers got an early power play in overtime, but Penn-Trafford held the Tigers off thanks to some key saves from goalie Eric Phelps. That enabled Graffius to score the game-winner on a scramble in front of the net with about four minutes left in overtime.
Graffius expects a good game Wednesday against Peters Township. Penn-Trafford won the teams' only regular-season meeting, 6-5, Feb. 25.
“The fact that we made it this far in the first place is really exciting for us, so we're just going to go in and we're going to play the way we can,” Graffius said. “We're going to try to grind them down. They're a very good offensive team, but we think we can put a few goals in on them. We'll wear their D down, and we'll try to get the win.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.