State Hockey Championships: Formidable foes await PIHL's best in title frays
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North Allegheny coach Jim Black knows his team is in for quite a challenge Saturday when it plays La Salle College High School for the state championship in Class AAA at 4 p.m. at Ice Works in Aston, Pa.
But he didn't want his team thinking about that Wednesday night after its Penguins Cup championship game victory against Peters Township.
Black wanted his team to savior the moment.
"I'm a big believer that they need to enjoy this," Black said. "This is special for them."
Black said Wednesday night that he and the coaching staff would start preparations for La Salle Thursday morning, but that he and the players wouldn't talk about the Explorers until the bus ride across the state on Friday.
What the Tigers (18-4-2) will learn is that La Salle is a powerhouse. The Explorers are appearing in the state championship game for the third year in a row and fifth time in six years. The Explorers were victorious in three of those contests and also won a title in 1998.
Last season, La Salle beat Bethel Park, 6-2. The year before, Upper St. Clair took down the Explorers, 4-3. So far this season, La Salle is 22-3-1 and getting a lot of production from the line of Andrew Romano, Nick Master and Kevin Charyszyn, who scored a combined 27 points in three playoff games.
"We know they're a good team, but we're a good team, too, and on any given night, you never know," North Allegheny senior forward Joe Griffin said. "I think it's going to be a good game."
Griffin will enter the game red-hot, having scored two goals in each of the past two games.
The Tigers will be looking for their second state championship, the first coming in 2007.
While shutting down all comers in the Penguins Cup playoffs, Latrobe goaltender Shane Brudnok has also been keeping tabs on the Flyers Cup.
So he knows what awaits the newly crowned Penguins Cup champion Wildcats (19-3) Saturday when it travels across the state to Aston to take on Parkland High School in the Class AA state championship at 1:30 p.m.
Parkland actually lost in the Flyers Cup final to Cherokee High School of Marlton, N.J., a town about 15 miles east of Philadelphia, but Cherokee isn't eligible to compete in the Pennsylvania championship, so Parkland, located in Allentown, will represent the eastern side of the state.
Parkland (20-1-1) suffered its only loss in the Class AA Flyers Cup final to Cherokee, 6-3.
Parkland, who entered the Flyers Cup as the No. 11 seed, won the Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League title for the fourth year in a row, but had never won a Flyers Cup match prior to this season.
But the Trojans knocked off No. 6 Abington, 3-1, No. 3 Downington East, 3-0, and No. 2 North Penn, 2-1, to advance to the final before falling to Cherokee.
Goaltender Robert Stock has been great for the Trojans throughout the playoffs, stopping 108 of 116 shots with a 2.03 goals-against average.
Brett McHale leads Parkland with six points (three goals, three assists) in the playoffs.
Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said he is familiar with several of Parkland's players through amateur hockey. Winebrenner coaches the Westmoreland U18 Midget AA team and said that many of Parkland's players compete on Lehigh Valley's amateur squad.
"I know they've got a lot of talent," Winebrenner said.
Latrobe will be trying for its fourth state hockey title.
The Wildcats won three consecutive Class AA titles from 2008-10. Three players on this season's team -- Brudnok, Josh Singley and Robert Vasinko -- played on the 2010 team as freshmen.
Brudnok, who has two shutouts in three games during this postseason, wants to go leave on top.
"To go out like that would just be great," Brudnok said.
With its 5-1 victory against Mars Wednesday, Quaker Valley won its second consecutive PIHL Class A Penguins Cup and completed the Western Pennsylvania portion of its schedule undefeated.
But the Quakers (25-0) know their work in the 2012-13 season is not complete.
Quaker Valley will try for its second consecutive state championship and third overall Saturday when it takes on Flyers Cup champion West Chester East at 11 a.m. at Ice Works in Aston.
"We've got some unfinished business to do obviously because that's our goal coming into the season and we expect to do this," junior forward Jimmy Perkins said. "West Chester is a good team and we know they'll be waiting for us."
The Quakers led the PIHL in fewest goals allowed this season, giving up just 23 in 25 games.
But West Chester East's Jesse Abarca and Zach Higgins could make it difficult for the Quakers' defense.
The duo combined to score five goals and five assists in West Chester East's 7-3 victory against Springfield in the Flyers Cup final Monday.
West Chester East will be trying to win its first state championship since 2008, when it took down Quaker Valley.
"We know they have a pretty dynamic top line and they hammered the team they played in the Flyers Cup," Quinn said. "And they're the team that beat us the last time we lost in the state championship [in 2008].
"So we're looking to finish a great season but it's going to be a very tall task to go across the state and win."
Correction, posted March 22, 2013: Latrobe (19-3) will play on Saturday against Parkland (20-1-1) in the Class AA state title game. An incorrect opponent previously was reported.
First Published March 22, 2013 12:00 am