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Hampton, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair Advance to Championships

by Tony Jovenitti / Pittsburgh Penguins
The NCAA Tournament doesn’t start until Tuesday. But on Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center, a No. 1 seed fell at the hands of an underdog.

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The fourth-seeded Hampton Talbots took down the top-seeded Kittanning Wildcats, 6-2, in the Penguins Cup Class A semifinal to move on to the championship game on Sunday at 5 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. In other semifinal action Monday night, No. 1 seed Peters Township downed No. 4 seed Chartiers Valley, 8-1, in the Class AA semifinal, while No. 4 seed Upper St. Clair downed No. 1 seed Fox Chapel, 2-0.

Class A: Hampton 6, Kittanning 2

Kittanning steamrolled through the regular season with a 20-1 record and had the most impressive offense in their class, scoring an average of more than eight goals per game.

But the one problem with Kittanning’s Penguins Cup semifinal draw is that Hampton represents the “1” in Kittanning’s 20-1 record, as the Talbots squeaked out a 5-4 overtime win over the Wildcats back in January. But the Wildcats got revenge early in March with an 8-4 victory over Hampton.

Hampton, however, suffered through many injuries throughout the season.

“We snuck up on them earlier in the year,” Hampton coach Brad Lloyd said. “We knew that they weren’t going to underestimate us in the second matchup of the year. We dressed 11 skaters and they laid one on us pretty good. We were hoping they would remember the team that they beat 8-4 two weeks ago, and they did. We were up, 3-0, about seven or eight minutes in.”

Hampton attacked Kittanning’s defense hard, and just a few minutes into the game, Joseph Vita pounced on a loose puck in the crease to give Hampton the opening goal. By the end of the first period, Hampton would add two more goals from Zachary Homitz and Ian Wood to send Kittanning into the first intermission with a three-goal deficit.

The second period was much of the same, with Hampton’s defense staying active to block shots from the talented Kittanning forwards. Hampton goalie Sam Wilson held the Wildcats to just two goals, which was two less than Kittanning’s previous season-low of four.

“I can’t say enough about our defense, they kept the shots very manageable,” Wilson said. “We played a sound defensive game, and we actually outshot them.”

Kittanning never got on the board until less than four minutes remained in the second period, when Jake Enders blasted a slap shot from the left circle through Wilson’s pads. But Hampton got the goal right back early in the third period thanks to a Zachary Kosick shot, who finished with two goals.

“We’re doing everything we have to do to win games,” Wilson said. “This game, we just threw shots on net. That was our mentality, throw shots on net, get rebounds and make them panic because they’re not used to being down.”

Indeed, Kittanning was out of their comfort zone – and that frustration boiled over near the end of the game when tempers flared. By the time the final buzzer sounded, several players were handed game misconducts, meaning Hampton will be without the services of some players and their coach for the championship game.

“I know I’m suspended for the championship, unless they look at the tape,” Lloyd said.

Regardless, Hampton reached its first Penguins Cup final in its program’s history.

“I’ve been getting phone calls all week, from people and parents in the community,” Lloyd said. “We’ve never been this far, so everybody was making a big deal about us possibly being the deer in the headlights, because Kittanning has been here before.

“The kids came out and they did what they were supposed to do, and they won.”

Class AA: Peters Township 8, Chartiers Valley 1

Despite Peters Township’s resounding 8-1 win over Pine Richland in the Class AA Penguins Cup quarterfinals, Indians coach Rick Tingle was apprehensive about his team’s next game.

“Usually the toughest game for us, historically, has been the semifinal games,” he said. “If you look back in our history, that’s where it’s been tough. Obviously it was tough last year, so we’re not taking it lightly at all.”

Tingle needed have worried, as the top-seeded Indians rolled to another 8-1 win, outshooting the fourth-seeded Chartiers Valley by a 49-16 margin to advance to the championship game on Sunday at 7 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

“It’s unbelievable,” Mike Glicksman said of advancing after being defeated by the eventual state champion Greater Latrobe in last year’s semifinals. “We came into this game really focused and really wanted to redeem ourselves after last year.”

Taylor Cox and Cole Snyder each had two-goal efforts for the surging Peters Township – who hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Nov. 1 – while Glicksman added a goal and two assists for the Indians and Evan Mitchell recorded three helpers.

Peters Township found themselves with two players in the box early, as Alex Dagnal got a hooking penalty just 1:47 into the game while Ben Zalewski was whistled for a double-minor 25 seconds later – giving the Colts a two-man advantage for 1:35.

But despite a strong surge by the Colts, the Indians emerged unscathed, with Cox getting his team on the board with 6:49 left in the opening frame. Snyder rounded out the first-period scoring with a beautiful shorthanded, unassisted tally that came with 40.6 seconds left.

The Indians tightened up their game entering the middle frame, scoring four goals in the second period to take a 6-1 cushion into the second intermission.

“We got better as the game went on, which was important,” Tingle said. “But we weren’t satisfied with the way that we played in the first period defensive zone. It’s better, but it wasn’t where we wanted to be.”

Ben Dachille added a power-play tally and Ben Zalewski also scored in the third period to cement the Indians’ 8-1 victory. Justin Sabilla scored in the second for the Colts.

The Indians credited the performance of Colts goaltender Noah Stevenson, who made 41 saves in the loss.

“I think the goalie did an unbelievable job,” Glicksman said. “But when you get 50 shots, it’s hard to stop them all.”

The peaking Indians are ready to prove themselves to whomever they face on Sunday, whether it be Greater Latrobe or Bishop Canevin. Those two teams face off Tuesday at 5 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

“We’re ready to go on Sunday,” Glicksman said. “We’re already focusing on that and it should be a really good game. ... We played unbelievable in the first two games. Hopefully that’s a streak we can keep going here.”

Class AAA: Upper St. Clair 2, Fox Chapel 0

Fox Chapel came into Monday night’s semifinal as the No. 1 seed in Class AAA, and rightfully so. The Foxes went 18-2 in the regular season and averaged almost six goals per game. But Upper St. Clair was perhaps the hottest team in the class, going unbeaten in the final nine games of the regular season.

The Panthers cashed in on a two-on-one chance in the second period en route to a 2-0 upset of the Foxes to make it to the Penguins Cup championship game on Sunday at 9 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center.

Upper St. Clair shut out Fox Chapel’s potent offense thanks to a well-rounded effort.

“It was a great combination,” Upper St. Clair head coach Larry Marks said. “It starts in goal. Michael Ambrose did a great job in goal. The defenseman did a great job, too. We started slow in the first period, but then we shut them down.”

The game started out as a defensive battle as well as a goaltenders’ duel. Both Ambrose and Fox Chapel’s Tyler Fannie made some tough saves in the first frame to keep the game scoreless.

The pace picked up a bit in the second period, with odd-man rushes at both ends of the ice. Midway through the frame, Fox Chapel thought they grabbed the opening goal, but the referee waved the goal off due to a crease violation.

On the very next play, the Panthers pounced.

Luke Stork led a two-on-one rush up the ice and dished a perfect pass to Michael Sweeney. Fox Chapel goalie had little chance to make the save, as Sweeney finished the play with a wrister into the twine to give Fox Chapel the 1-0 lead.

“The first goal is always huge in a game like this. It turned the momentum around and I think our kids became more comfortable at that time,” Marks said. “We got a little bit looser when we scored that first goal. It’s a big goal.”

In the third period, Fox Chapel put the pressure on and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ambrose and the Panthers defense.

But with the Foxes pressing on a power play, Stork broke free for a shorthanded chance. Fannie made the initial save. But Stork stuck with it, and corralled the puck from the corner and snapped a shot top shelf to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Humes nearly got the Foxes on the board in the final two minutes of the game, but Ambrose made a great pad save on the breakaway to preserve the shutout and his team’s spot in the Penguins Cup finals.

“I felt amazing, I’m not going to lie,” Ambrose said. “I thought we did a great job of limiting their second-chance opportunities. After they took their first shots, I either controlled it or my D got it right away. So that made it pretty easy for me.

“I couldn’t be happier, this is amazing. I’m looking forward to a great game Sunday."

Michelle Crechiolo contributed to this report.
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