Class AAA hockey: Senior duo leads Indians to Pennsylvania Cup crown

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Brian Baker and Joe Kittelberger have been through a lot of tough losses in championship games.

So it was fitting that the two Peters Township seniors stepped up to lead the Indians to their biggest championship win.

Baker stopped 31 shots and Kittelberger scored the winning goal as the Indians (20-4) claimed the Class AAA Pennsylvania Cup with a 2-1 victory against La Salle College (18-10-2) Saturday at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena.

"Losing [the Penguins Cup] three years in a row -- I lost it twice, Baker lost it three times -- and finally getting all this is just an unbelievable feeling," Kittelberger said. "We worked so hard, not just one year but several years, and we've finally got it our senior year."

The state championship is the Indians' first since 2005 and fourth overall for the program, with the other three titles coming in Class AA.

While no current Indians player had prior Pennsylvania Cup experience, the Explorers were making their fourth consecutive state championship appearance and sixth in seven years.

That disparity worried Peters Township coach Rick Tingle in the minutes leading up to the game.

"I went into the locker room with about 15 minutes to go and it was quiet," Tingle said. "There was some music playing, but it was pretty quiet and that's unlike them.

"And the first few shifts, we were, I think, nervous. But we got it out of our system early and scoring that first goal, I think, helped."

The Indians struck first 7:18 into the first period when Adam Alavi beat La Salle's Harrison Feeney for his fourth goal of the postseason.

But the Explorers tied it three minutes later when a falling Kevin Charyszyn beat Baker up high.

Still tied five minutes into the second period, Kittelberger got the puck at the blue line, sidestepped a La Salle player and wristed a shot past Feeney for just his fourth goal of the season.

"I stepped up," said Kittelberger, the team's captain. "We needed one and I got one."

Alavi had a chance to extend the lead with 7:56 remaining in the third period when he was awarded a penalty shot after getting hooked while heading in for a breakaway. But Feeney stopped Alavi's backhand to keep it a one-goal game.

Jonathan Dagnal then gave La Salle a power play for nearly the final four minutes, as he was called for elbowing with 3:41 left and then whistled for tripping six seconds after leaving the box.

But Baker and the Indians penalty-kill were up to the task. The senior goaltender made a few crucial saves, none tougher than Charyszyn's slap shot with 30 seconds left that Baker just got a piece of to deflect it over the crossbar. Baker finished the postseason 4-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .948 save percentage.

Alavi thwarted La Salle's final push by clearing the puck out of the zone with five seconds left, and the Indians players starting tapping their sticks on the boards in anticipation of raising the Pennsylvania Cup.

"After four years, losing three years in a row, I can't even describe the feelings I got from [hoisting the Cup]," Baker said.

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