After losing in the Penguins Cup final each of the previous three seasons, Peters Township finally broke through Monday night.
Senior goaltender Brian Baker stopped 41 shots and senior forward Jonathan Dagnal scored a hat trick to help No. 2 Peters Township (19-4) win its first Penguins Cup championship since 2005 in a 4-2 victory against No. 1 Bethel Park (19-4) in the Class AAA championship game at Consol Energy Center.
“I’m speechless,” Baker said. “I can’t even describe how happy I am right now, especially with this group of guys. I knew we could pull this one out this year.”
Baker was on Peters Township’s squad for each of the previous three championship game losses, including a 2-1 defeat to Bethel Park in 2012.
But the Indians never trailed Monday, getting on the board first at the 3:01 mark of the second period as Dagnal wristed a shot over the glove-side shoulder of William Lowe.
Dagnal, who had played only amateur hockey prior to joining the Indians in the seventh game of this season, has seven goals in three postseason games.
“He came in halfway and he’s been phenomenal,” Baker said. “Putting him with our top line just finished it off.”
Seven minutes later, Adam Alavi put a rebound past Lowe to give the Indians a two-goal cushion.
Moments later, Peters Township’s Brady Cochrane hit the Black Hawks’ Derek Lesnak in the head on a check. Lesnak remained down for a few minutes but eventually skated off under his own power and would return to the game shortly afterward. Cochrane was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
The Black Hawks took advantage of the extended power play, as Jake Worcester scored on a rebound with 1:08 left in the second period to cut the Indians’ lead to 2-1.
In the third period, Bethel Park twice had the two-man advantage with a chance to tie the game, but Baker was up to the task, stopping 10 shots during Bethel Park’s two 5-on-3 power plays.
“Killing penalties is just hard work and that’s what [our players] did,” Peters Township coach Rick Tingle said. “And Baker has to be good for you there, and he was.”
Then Dagnal gave Peters Township some breathing room, scoring on a backhand shot with 4:09 left in the game. After Worcester scored his second goal of the game, Dagnal put the game away with an empty-netter.
The championship is Peters Township’s first Class AAA title. The Indians won four consecutive Class AA Penguins Cups from 2002-05.
Peters Township will now to try for a state championship when it faces Flyers Cup champion La Salle Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pa.