Behind two seniors, one of whom has been on the team all four years and the other who started playing for the squad in December, Peters Township finally broke its Penguins Cup championship-game losing streak.
Senior Brian Baker stopped 41 shots and senior Jonathan Dagnal scored a hat trick to lead the Indians (19-4) to a 4-2 victory against Bethel Park Monday night in the Class AAA Penguins Cup championship game at Consol Energy Center.
For Baker, who had been on the Indians for their 2011 Class AA Penguins Cup championship-game loss to Bishop Canevin and their 2012 and 2013 Class AAA Penguins Cup title-game losses to Bethel Park and North Allegheny, respectively, Monday's win was especially significant.
"We were heartbroken three times in a row and we finally get to enjoy it for once," Baker said. "This great feeling you get to share this with the group of guys we have, it's indescribable."
Baker, a two-time league all-star, was sensational Monday night. Despite facing a barrage of shots, this veteran netminder held Bethel Park to just one goal through two periods as the Indians entered the third with a 2-1 lead.
Early in the third, however, Bethel Park tried to get Baker off his game by giving notice to the officials that Baker's mask was not legal. After officials delayed the game 10 minutes to discuss the issue, they gave the Indians a two-minute penalty for equipment violation.
To make matters worse, it came at the same time the Indians' Carter Ekberg had been penalized for interference, giving Bethel Park a two-man advantage for two minutes.
"I've been using [the mask] all year," Baker said. "They said it was fine [earlier this season], but for whatever reason they decided to change it today. But whatever, just shake it off and keep going."
Baker did just that, as he made a total of 10 saves combined during this 5-on-3 and a second two-man advantage the Black Hawks would have later in the third period.
"I was really impressed when we had to put a different mask on," said Peters Township coach Rick Tingle, who did not agree with the illegal equipment penalty. "That's when he really showed his true character.
"Goaltenders are particular about their gear. Changing stuff is not something you do on the fly."
While Baker was guarding the Indians' lead, Dagnal was giving him some breathing room. A senior sniper who scored the game's opening goal, he also scored the team's third goal with 4:09 left in the game to give Peters a 3-1 advantage.
After Bethel Park again cut the lead to one on a Jake Worcester goal in the final 30 seconds, Dagnal sealed the game with an empty-netter.
It was the second consecutive hat trick for Dagnal, who didn't join Peters Township's squad until the seventh game of the season.
"He changed the dynamic on our top line," Tingle said. "He allowed us to play really four solid lines. It really helped through the whole season, but clearly came through the last two games."
Prior to this season, Dagnal had only played amateur hockey. He was still playing for the Esmark Stars this fall when he decided to join Peters Township at the urging of a few of his teammates.
Dagnal fit right into the team's top line with Adam Alavi and Sam Barnes, both of whom he has played with on amateur teams.
"The past couple years, [my friends] were like, 'Come play Peters hockey. You'll love it,'" Dagnal said. "But I was trying to keep my grades up and I was playing for my amateur team as well.
"I finally caved in this year. It's my senior year and I figured I would just go for it. It was a good decision."
It was a good decision for both Dagnal and Peters Township, which won its fifth Penguins Cup (first in Class AAA) and will play LaSalle College High School from suburban Philadelphia for a state championship Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park.