Last season, North Allegheny lost in the PIHL Penguins Cup playoffs, a 2-1 defeat in triple overtime to eventual champion Bethel Park.
It was the Tigers' fourth loss in the Penguins Cup quarterfinals in the past four years to a team from Class AAA Section 1.
"Bethel Park, Upper St. Clair and Canon-Mac twice, not that I was counting," Tigers coach Jim Black said.
So Wednesday night, when the Tigers faced off once again in a quarterfinal matchup with Canon-McMillan, the previous losses started creeping into Black's mind as the teams headed to overtime.
"I did start thinking about it because the game started to change in the second period," Black said. "They got us on our heels. And with our group of kids, they only had played two career playoff games. Without long playoff runs, our players didn't have a lot of experience and that makes it tough."
But last season's heartbreaking loss to Bethel Park proved to be very valuable for the Tigers Wednesday night. North Allegheny turned the tables and posted a 2-1 victory in overtime.
Black said the one thing he really noticed during the game against the Black Hawks was how Marty Hubert started to get stronger as the game went along, even as the teams started battling through multiple overtimes.
So Wednesday, he wanted to make sure he got Hubert more ice time.
"He really excels in those situations," Black said. "He was one of the most dominant players in overtime against Bethel. So I asked him at the end of the second period [Wednesday] how he was feeling and he told me was good to go. I knew I had to get him out on the ice a lot so I stuck him on a line with Cody [Black] and Connor [Cash]."
The move proved to be the difference. Just 16 seconds after Bradford Thornburgh made a fantastic save on James Oddi's penalty shot, Hubert carried the puck into Canon-McMillan's zone and left a drop pass for Cody Black, who buried the puck in the back of the net for the game-winner.
"It was a great play," Cody Black said. "He made the drop pass and then cut in front of the goaltender to screen him, and I just shot it and it went in."
The fact the goal was scored by his son made it that much sweeter for Jim Black, especially since he knows how hard his son has worked on his shot.
"It was a great moment and Cody has really worked hard to improve his shot," Black said. "He spends an hour to an hour and a half each Tuesday working on his shot with my brother."
That hard work puts the Tigers (16-4-2) in the semifinals for the first time since winning the Penguins Cup in 2007.
"It definitely lifts a weight off our shoulders," Cody Black said.
Lancers find playoff success
The Deer Lakes hockey team did something Monday it hadn't done in exactly 10 years -- win a playoff game.
Led by Mitchell Rupprecht and Zack Luniewski's combined five goals, the Lancers took down South Fayette, 8-1, in the first-round of the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup.
It was the first postseason win for Deer Lakes since it beat Blackhawk, 7-5, on March 4, 2003. This season was the Lancers' first playoff appearance since 2005.
The victory Monday was Deer Lakes' ninth of the season, matching the nine the program had in the past four seasons combined. The Lancers didn't field a varsity team last season and were 9-54-1 in the three seasons from 2008-2011.
"We knew what we had with our players, but it still means a lot to go to the playoffs and means even more to go one step further," Deer Lakes coach Todd Luniewski said.