Class AAA all-stars battle to OT tie
NEW KENSINGTON - High school hockey fans were treated to outstanding play in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League's Class AAA all-star game Saturday night at Valley Sports Complex.
But they wanted more.
A winning score, to be exact.
The Northeast Conference all-stars battled the Southwest to a 1-1 tie through 45 minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime.
Some fans and players seemed slightly disappointed the teams weren't allowed to break the tie in more overtime or with a shootout.
"I'm sure that's something we're going to talk about," PIHL commissioner Ed Sam said. "I'm not crazy about a tie all-star game."
Still, the game put the PIHL's class for its largest schools on center stage and was highlighted by outstanding goaltending.
Northeast goaltenders Joel Sterniak of Penn-Trafford, Eric Theissen of Fox Chapel and Nick Bennardo of Shaler combined to stop 47 of 48 shots. The Southwest's Matt Vaughan of Mt. Lebanon, John Mioduszewski of Erie Cathedral Prep and Bryan Danczak of Meadville stopped 23 of 24 shots.
"The goaltending was exceptional," said Southwest coach John Harford of Upper St. Clair. "All six really deserved to be here."
The Northeast found the net first early in the second period. Norwin's Mike Ulicny scored on an assist by Plum's Matt Giunta.
About five minutes later, the Northeast almost added to its lead with a breakaway goal. The shot missed, however, and the Southwest responded by immediately taking the puck down the ice and scoring the tying goal. Mt. Lebanon's Tyler Murovich was assisted by teammate Shane Ferguson.
"The momentum of this sport, sometimes it's like being in a washing machine or a dryer," said Northeast coach Jim Damp of Fox Chapel. "But I thought it was a well played game."
Ordinarily, a hockey all-star game isn't about great goaltending. But in the Class AA game, the tone was set by some outstanding work by Bishop Canevin's Joe Ziemianski and Indiana Area's Mike Kennedy.
Both goaltenders stopped 22 of 23 shots in the first period before Elizabeth-Forward's Mike Cole had to stop a flurry of shots in the third period as the Southwest held on to defeat the Northeast, 6-5.
"Joe did a super job for us," said Southwest coach Norm Cook of West Allegheny. "The Northeast really dominated that first period, and he held us in. All three goaltenders did well."
Both teams exchanged goals three times, including two by Moon senior Chris Simoni.
"It was exciting," Simnoi said. "I was a little nervous that first shift. But then I got into the flow, and everything went well."
South Park's Matt Miley gave the Southwest the lead for good with a goal at the 11:50 mark of the second period. Southwest took a 6-3 advantage on a goal by Peters Township's Dustin Roux, but the Kittanning tandem of Justin Kovatch and Lee Heilman brought the Northeast to within two goals and Greensburg Central Catholic's Alfonso Arevalo's goal cut the lead to one, setting up the frantic last minutes of play.
"We just told them to go hard toward the puck at the end," Cook said. "We knew they'd probably pull their netminder at the end. You just had to outwork them.
Kittanning's Joe Mercurio was sharp in goal before being pulled in the final minute of play. Arvelo's shot with 2.5 seconds left was stopped near the goalmouth.
A year ago, Patrick Spangler never dreamed he'd be scoring goals in a Pennsylvania all-star game.
Spangler was playing in South Dakota -- a state with only eight high school hockey teams -- before his father, Gary, retired from the U.S. Air Force and relocated the family from Rapid City to Freeport.
The Yellowjackets junior scored a hat trick for the Southwest team in a 9-2 victory over the Northeast in the PIHL Class A all-star game.
Quaker Valley's Breton McNamara got the Southwest's scoring barrage underway with just 2:04 gone in the game when he slipped a goal in the right slot past Richland Cambria's John Kamzik. Then Spangler followed with his first goal three minutes later after discovering the puck loose near a pileup outside the Northeast goal.
"I just wanted to come in here and do well in a high school game," Spangler said. "I saw it there, and I thought maybe I could put it in."
Freeport teammate Beau Zack added an unassisted goal off Kamzik's glove three minutes later and the barrage was on. The Southwest outshot the Northeast 17-4 with just 11 minutes gone in the game.
"It's fun when you have this much talent to work with," said Southwest coach Erik Hoolahan of Sewickley Academy. "It's odd in single-A hockey where you just don't have that depth, then you get on a bench with four lines of nothing but power players."
Kamzik was peppered with 27 shots before yielding to Forest Hills netminder Kyle Single. Before leaving, Kamzik made an outstanding save on a breakaway attempt by Serra's Michael Ellis, using his right forearm to prevent another goal. The Northeast, consisting of players from Cambria County-area schools, broke the shutout on a goal by Craig Yingling with 1:06 left in the second period.
Even though offense prowess is paramount in all-star games, the Southwest played well on a Northeast power play situation in the second period when Serra's Jared Mathews was called for elbowing.
Third period goals by Spangler and Zack eight seconds apart in the third period put an exclamation point on the Southwest's performance.
Four of the Northeast Conference's all-star players had to leave late in the second period of the Open Class contest for a Junior B Penguins game.
But instead of faltering, the Northeast broke open a close game and defeated the Southwest, 4-1.
The Northeast was leading 1-0 when four of its players and one Southwest player left the arena.
"The other team saw all of our players leave and maybe that lolled them to sleep," said Northeast coach Jeff Horvath of Kiski Area.
Kiski Area's Adam Bowman scored the first goal with 6:01 left in the second period. He then left the building.
The Northeast piled up three goals by State College's Kurt Collins, Penn Hills' Anthony Battitsa and Bishop Guilfoyle's Steffan Langguth in the third period.
The Southwest's Justin Deery of Carrick scored with 1:38 remaining.
Kiski Area's Josh Horvath was the only player in the game with two points -- on two assists.
"When our players left, we knew we had to work harder and skate harder," said Horvath, a junior.