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If you conducted a straw poll on the importance of chemistry within the context of team sports, you’re likely to find 33 percent who say it’s vital for success, 33 percent who call it overrated and another 33 percent who legitimately don’t know.
That 33 percent who believes there is a direct correlation between chemistry and winning sure have a concrete example to back their claim following Tuesday night’s Class AA Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League semifinal matchup between West Allegheny and Bishop Canevin.
The third-seeded Indians dismissed the Crusaders 13 seconds into overtime on a Jon Levitt game-winning goal. West Allegheny’s victory pits them against two-time defending state champion Latrobe at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night in the Class AA title game of the 84 Lumber Penguins Cup Championship Series.
“We played about 13 seconds more than we wanted to tonight but that’s a big emotional lift for us,” West Allegheny head coach Tyler Webb said. “I was happy we were able to get it done in the extra frame.”
Webb’s team was able to get the job done because of the strong on-ice bond formed over the years by Levitt and Patrick Coburn, who set up the overtime winner and scored the Indians’ lone goal during regulation.
Levitt and Coburn, a pair of sophomores, are good friends who have spent several seasons playing on the same line both with West Allegheny and at the amateur level. They are like two peas in a pod on the ice, always knowing where the other is and what he is thinking.
On the Indians first rush of the overtime period Coburn did a nice job below the Bishop Canevin goal line of outmuscling a pair of defenders for the puck. He walked out towards the near post and sent a backhand pass to the top of the crease where Levitt stood all alone. Levitt quickly deposited the rubber into an open cage to notch what he later called “the biggest goal” of his young career.
“I have to give Coburn all the credit,” Levitt said. “I could have taken another 10 seconds before I shot that. All the credit goes to him. It was an incredible pass and he gave me all the time in the world.
“We have played together for years. We just know where each other are at. It helps when you get to know where a player is going on the ice. He knew I was going to the front of the net and he just put the puck right on my tape. It was a backdoor goal simple as that.”
Coburn said Levitt made the play happen by letting Coburn know he was wide open in front.
“Jon called for the puck so I just threw it in front,” Coburn said. “He buried it.”
|West Allegheny advanced to the Penguins Cup Final with a 2-1 overtime victory. |
Heading into the third period it appeared as though it might be Coburn who was the hero of the evening. Coburn opened the scoring 7:33 into the second period when he came out from behind the net and stuffed a shot inside the near post on Crusaders goaltender Julian DiFilippo.
Bishop Canevin tied the game at the 11:05 mark of the third period when Jacob Betzner’s slap shot from the point deflected off Vincent Nicolella standing just to the left of the crease.
In the Class A matchup, defending Penguins Cup champion Mars rode an Elliot Tisdale hat trick and contributions throughout the lineup to a 7-3 victory over Bishop McCort.
Standing in the Planet’s way in their quest for back-to-back titles in Saturday’s championship game is third-seeded Serra Catholic, which defeated Kittanning, 5-3, on Monday. Game time is set for 5 p.m.
“It has been our goal since the beginning of the season to get back to where we where last year,” Mars alternate captain Mike Mazzotta said. “It’s very exciting that we get to play here for the sixth time in three years.”
Mazzotta, who scored the opening goal for the Planets, was one of five goal scorers on the night for Mars along with Tisdale, Rusty Miller, C.J. Thibault and Tyler Whiteford. Mazzotta says having such a diversified attack makes the Planets all the more difficult to defend.
“We run three solid lines all game long,” Mazzotta said. “I think that wears teams out. That helps the top two lines get their rest, which is good for being rested down the stretch.”
Trying to contain Tisdale has also proven to wear opposing teams out. His three-goal performance against the Crushers was his second hat trick in as many postseason games.
“It is definitely important to have your best games when it matters the most,” Tisdale said. “Coming out with these wins has been more important to me. I just try to do whatever I can do to help the team.”
“He has been everything we could have asked for,” Mars head coach Steve Meyers said. “He was our leading scorer in the regular season and he’s been the leading scorer in the playoffs.”
While all three of Tisdale’s goals were a thing of beauty, none was better than his third.
Tisdale was skating down his off-wing one-on-one with a Bishop McCort defenseman when he tossed the puck between his legs to help gain separation from the defender. He then threw a shot into the far corner of the cage to cap the scoring with 41 seconds remaining in the second period.
“I have practiced that a little bit,” Tisdale said. “It is more just a way to go around the D to go in and get a shot. I didn’t expect to do much off of it but obviously it came up big.”
Dane Domonkos had a huge night in a losing effort for the Crushers with two goals and an assist.