Plum drops Latrobe in PIHL Penguins Cup title game
Plum's hockey team is celebrating like it's 1998.
The Mustangs captured their first PIHL Penguins Cup since 1998 with a 6-1 win over Latrobe in the Class AA title game Tuesday night at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
“It's amazing. I can't explain the feeling right now,” Plum's Nolan Puhala said. “We've been working at this since sixth grade. It's a dream come true.”
Plum (19-2-1) meets Downingtown East, which won its second Flyers Cup in three years, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at the RMU Island Sports Center. Plum won PIHL titles in ‘89, ‘96, ‘97 and ‘98 and also claimed the 1989 state championship.
“Winning this means everything right now. We started preparing in the summer and worked hard. To see it all pay off feels unbelievable,” Plum's Anthony Borriello said. “I think it says what the type of group of guys we have here and the passion we all have. Each and every one of us played for the team, and it showed on the scoreboard. For this group, for this borough, it just feels amazing.
“It feels weird after you celebrate like this to be playing one more game, but it's not over yet. What we've been doing has been working, so we need to stick to that and come out Saturday ready to play.”
Plum kept up its postseason offensive barrage. After leading PIHL Class 2A with 117 goals during the regular season, the Mustangs piled up 16 in the Penguins Cup tournament.
“You can't beat that. You have to score more to win,” Plum coach Vinnie Somma said. “Our offense did well, but it starts in our D-zone. The forwards, the defensemen, our goalie, from first line to fourth — when you play as a team, good things happen.”
Borriello tallied his second hat trick in as many games. The senior captain tallied three goals in a 5-2 semifinal win over Hempfield.
“It feels great. That's a credit to my linemates, though,” he said. “Everybody was on point tonight, and the puck was moving and it was going in for us.”
Borriello swatted in a second rebound 6 minutes, 10 seconds into the first to open the scoring. On the power play, Puhala lifted a shot into the net for a 2-0 edge.
The Wildcats (12-10-1) suffered a big loss when an errant puck hit Jared Schimizzi on the back of his helmet midway through the first. Schimizzi led Latrobe in scoring during the regular season with 25 goals and 46 points. He had a team-best three goals and six points in the postseason, as well. He did not return to the game.
The Mustangs pushed their advantage to 3-0 just 1:37 into the second on Domenic Borriello's goal.
Paxton Knupp broke the shutout with 24.4 seconds to go in the second via a power-play goal.
Latrobe was unable to carry the momentum over to the third, though. Plum pushed its lead to 4-1 just 3:36 into the third period when Anthony Borriello scored on a wraparound. Puhala added a goal for a 5-1 advantage, and Anthony Borriello tallied his third on the power play to cap the scoring.
Goaltender Sergio Benitez stopped 25 shots to earn the win.
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.