Class AAA rivals Bethel Park, Peters Twp. set for rubber match
Although Bethel Park coach Jim McVay and Peters Township coach Rick Tingle are good friends off the ice, they don't seem to agree on much on the ice.
The rival coaches and their teams from PIHL Section 1-AAA will go head to head Monday in the Penguins Cup championship at the Consol Energy Center, each with a rather different view on the game.
“I've never mentioned the word Penguins Cup to my players,” McVay said. “If we don't beat Peters Township, and our guys play a great game, that's life.”
While McVay never has been one for setting championship goals, Tingle said that getting to, and winning, the Penguins Cup is his team's goal every year, no matter the result of the previous season.
“Why do you compete if you don't put your goal out there to be the highest possible thing?” Tingle said.
Preseason goals aside, when No. 1 seed Bethel Park takes on No. 2 Peters Township at 9 p.m. Monday, both teams will be playing for a chance to advance to the state finals. The Class AAA Penguins Cup championship follows the Class A game at 4:30 and Class AA game at 6:45, with the winners of all three games advancing to the Pennsylvania Cup championship games, Saturday at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena, against the respective Flyers Cup champions.
Peters Township is playing in its fourth straight championship game, losing each of the past three trips. But the losing streak isn't as burdensome to his players as it might be for folks outside the team to talk about, Tingle said.
If Peters Township wants to avoid four straight losses, it will have to find a way to stop Christian Siak, who has scored 29 goals and added 13 assists this season for Bethel Park.
Bethel Park (17-3) and Peters Township (16-4) met twice during the regular season, with Peters Township winning the first game 4-2 and Bethel Park taking the second 6-3.
Not surprisingly, McVay and Tingle disagree on which team should be favored to advance to the Pennsylvania Cup championship. Surprisingly, neither coach tabbed his own team.
McVay views Peters as having the superior team, but Tingle doesn't buy the kind words.
“I'm sure he has as high praise for our team as we have for his, but the reality of it is the last game we played them, they pasted us,” Tingle said. “We're the underdog here.”
Bishop Canevin and Erie Cathedral Prep are loaded offensively.
While Erie Cathedral Prep features two 50-point scorers in Ben Eliason (23 goals, 39 assists) and Trevor Faulkner (18, 32), Bishop Canevin fields four 20-goal scorers, led by Randy Unger.
After missing most of last season with a concussion, Unger (27, 48) returned to capture the Class AA scoring title as a senior for Bishop Canevin.
Erie Cathedral Prep (16-4-2) got the best of Bishop Canevin (20-2) in a 5-4 overtime win early in the season, but most recently, Bishop Canevin beat the Ramblers, 8-5, on the last day of the regular season.
With two high-powered offenses, defense and goaltending could be the difference. That bodes well for the Crusaders.
“They're probably the best defensive core that I've seen in the PIHL,” Erie Cathedral Prep coach Craig Barnett said. “That's a difference between not just us, but everyone else in the league.”
Bishop Canevin has had to deal with high expectations as the No. 1 seed.
“I was a little worried how they would respond when everyone expects them to win,” coach Kevin Zielmanski said. “They seem a lot more relaxed than me.”
Quaker Valley (21-1) doesn't care about its 3-0 record against Thomas Jefferson (15-5-2) this season.
The two-time defending Penguins Cup champs care more about the last 17 minutes played between the two teams Jan. 30.
“The most recent thing in my memory is we had a 5-1 lead and gave up three straight goals,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “We're down 3-0 to them in the last period of play.”
A blunt intermission speech by TJ coach Bill Crousey set the Jaguars on the path to their first championship game in seven years.
“We had a strong third period, but we were bad early in that game,” Crousey said. “In the third period we decided to go out there and play it like it was 0-0.
“We may have lost, but that was a key point in our season.”
Quinn hopes to be able to lean on the same players he has all season in the championship.
“I think some outstanding play by a number of players in their senior years has really led us,” Quinn said. “I look at Jimmy (Perkins), Ryan (Lottes) and Alex (Quinn) and what they've done as captains for us this year.”
Perkins led Class A in scoring this year with 43 goals and 29 assists. TJ was led by Zach Uhlyar with 27 goals and 24 assists.
Mark Kaboly contributed to this report. Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.