PIHL Championships: Consol Conclave -- Finalists skating for Penguins Cups
Mars' Maxwell Master, left, tries to slow down Quaker Valley's Clayton Bouchard when the Class A finalists met in a regular-season game last month.
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North Allegheny senior Joe Griffin could only watch from the penalty box as Christian Siak scored on a 5-on-3 power play to give Bethel Park a 2-1 lead in the second period of Wednesday's PIHL Penguins Cup Class AAA semifinal.
"I was disappointed in myself in taking a penalty, but it's part of the game," Griffin said.
Griffin more than redeemed himself, though.
With Bethel Park having just a one-man advantage, Griffin scored a short-handed goal 39 seconds later to tie the game and shift the momentum.
"Any short-handed goal is huge because they're the ones you don't expect," North Allegheny coach Jim Black said. "It definitely made a big difference.
Griffin added his second goal in the third period to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead and North Allegheny went on to win, 4-3, to reach the Penguins Cup final for the first time since 2007.
This was Griffin's first multi-goal game since he returned Feb. 26 after a month absence due to a rib injury.
"I think you saw the real Joe Griffin out there tonight," Black said. "And I think he was definitely there with a purpose. He wanted to move on."
The Tigers (17-4-2) will play Peters Township (19-4) Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Consol Energy Center, site of all three finals.
Griffin and his teammates will have their hands full against Peters Township goaltender Brian Baker, who shut out State College, 3-0, Wednesday.
Baker went 1-1 and stopped 91.5 percent of the shots he faced against the Tigers this season.
"We have to get a lot of traffic in front and get rebounds. We can't let him see the puck," Griffin said.
The evidence points to a tight, low-scoring game between Pine-Richland (16-4-1) and Latrobe (18-3) in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup championship Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Including the playoffs, Latrobe has given up just 33 goals this season, tops in Class AA. The Rams have given up 41 goals, tied for second. In the two games the teams have played, a total of 10 goals have been scored.
"Pine-Richland is going to play us tight," Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. "We played them a few weeks ago and they played us tight. It was a very defensive-minded game and that's what I expect."
The Rams won the game Feb. 13 against the Wildcats, 3-2, after jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Latrobe won the teams' first matchup of the season, 4-1, on Dec. 10.
Wildcats senior goaltender Shane Brudnok, who leads Class AA in goals-against average and all three classes in wins, said the teams' styles of play dictate a low-scoring game.
"They play a defensive system and they trap, just like we do," Brudnok said.
The Quakers are just two games away from one of the great all-time runs in PIHL history.
"It's a little more difficult than people think because we always have a target on our backs," Quaker Valley junior forward Jimmy Perkins said.
Quaker Valley hasn't lost since Nov. 3, 2011, against Mars, a span of 45 games including the playoffs in which the Quakers have gone 44-0-1.
Now the Quakers (24-0) will try for their second consecutive Penguins Cup title against the rival Planets (19-3-1) Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Quaker Valley has won the past three contests since the November 2011 loss, but Quakers senior forward Ryan Dickson knows his team will need to come ready to play.
"We can't come out with any cockiness," Dickson said. "We have to come out like we're 0-20 and trying to prove something."
The game: No. 3 North Allegheny (17-4-2) vs. No. 1 Peters Township (19-4)
The coaches: North Allegheny: Jim Black, Peters Township: Rick Tingle
Statistical Leaders: North Allegheny: Cody Black (12 goals, 20 assists), Joe Griffin (21 goals, seven assists), Bradford Thornburgh (13-4-1, 1.97 goals-against average). Peters Township: Trevor Recktenwald (31 goals, 42 assists), Adam Alavi (24 goals, 30 assists), Brian Baker (16-3, 2.13)
The scoop: The Indians have won 15 consecutive games, their last loss a 2-1 setback on Dec. 13 against North Allegheny. Peters Township is making its third consecutive Penguins Cup championship game appearance, but the Indians have lost the past two. North Allegheny is in the Cup final for the first time since winning the title in 2007. Peters Township is the highest scoring team in Class AAA this season, while North Allegheny has allowed the fewest goals in the classification.
The game: No. 4 Pine-Richland (16-4-1) vs. No. 2 Latrobe (18-3), 7 p.m. Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
The coaches: Pine-Richland: Mike Bagnato; Latrobe: John Winebrenner.
Statistical leaders: Pine-Richland: Dillon Kessy (31 goals, 30 assists), Zach Richey (30 goals, 24 assists), Brendan Bagnato (15-3-1, 1.90 goals-against average). Latrobe: Josh Singley (21 goals, 34 assists), Adam Ferguson (20 goals, 25 assists), Shane Brudnok (17-3-0, 1.66 goals-against average).
The scoop: Latrobe has allowed the fewest goals (33) in Class AA this season, while Pine-Richland (41) is tied for second. The Wildcats won three consecutive Penguins Cups from 2008 through 2010, while the Rams are trying to win it for the first time since current Chicago Blackhawk Brandon Saad led them to the Class AAA title in 2008. The teams split two regular-season games.
The game: No. 2 Mars (19-3-1) vs. No. 1 Quaker Valley (24-0), 5 p.m. Wednesday at Consol Energy Center.
The coaches: Mars: Steve Meyers; Quaker Valley: Kevin Quinn.
Statistical leaders: Mars: Craig Mazzotta (23 goals, 19 assists), Nicholas Makozy (21 goals, 20 assists), Christian Knapp (14-1-1, 1.55 goals-against average). Quaker Valley: Jimmy Perkins (34 goals, 29 assists), Connor Quinn (20 goals, 42 assists), Parker Sherry (14-0, 0.96 goals-against average).
The scoop: It's a rematch of last season's Class A Penguins Cup final, which Quaker Valley won, 4-2. These teams have combined to win the past five Class A Penguins Cup titles. Mars is in the championship game for the sixth consecutive time and is 3-2 in the previous five (both losses to Quaker Valley). Quaker Valley won both regular-season games against the Planets, 5-2 and 4-0. The Quakers are unbeaten in their past 45 games.
First Published March 15, 2013 12:00 am