The Mars Planets won their third Class A title in a row against the Hampton Talbots in the 2011 Penguins Cup final at CONSOL Energy Center Sunday.
Mars sophomore Austin Heakins stole the show with 2 goals and an assist in a 5-0 win, and he was delighted to personally win his second consecutive Penguins Cup.
“It feels great,” Heakins said. “I have come in
here as the young guy on the team and everyone has treated me really well. It is nice for me, and I know it is good for our seniors. To me it is really special, and I hope we can do it again next year.”
Planets coach Steve Neese was pleased with his team’s display and put their continued success down to their hard work and focus and paid tribute to the Mars seniors.
“Trust me this is special,” said Neese. “There are quite a few kids on our roster who are winning the Penguins Cup for the first time. The kids that are graduating are the most successful class we have ever had at Mars Hockey, they really are something special.”
Looking ahead to the Pennsylvania state championship, where they will meet the winner of the Class A Flyers Cup, Neese believes his players need to just keep focus and they will be victorious.
“We have to play our game,” he said. “That’s it. If we play to our system we cannot be beat.”
Mars did not have the game all their own way in the early stages as the Hampton Talbots sought to cause another upset after ousting No. 1 seed Kittanning, 6-2, in their semifinal on Monday.
The Talbots put up a valiant battle early on and the Planets did not break through until the end of the first period.
Mars got the first goal of the game with 42.8 seconds before the first intermission as forward Robert Foley smashed a slap shot from the crease which was poked home by Elliot Tisdale for a power-play goal. The slap shot from Foley was too hard for Hampton goaltender Sam Wilson to handle as the puck spilled out and Tisdale was on hand to put the puck away.
This goal gave Mars a great platform to build off in the second period and they wasted no time in doing so. At the 4:30 mark of the second it was Heakins who doubled the Planets lead. He followed up in front of the net after a shot from Joseph Bender had fallen loose.
Mars had all the play for the remainder of the second period as their two goals in quick succession knocked the wind out of a spirited Hampton side.
With 2:44 remaining in the second, Nick Blaney continued his great form in the 2011 Penguins Cup as he capitalized on a loose clearance from the Hampton defense and hammered home a back-handed shot high into the net to make it 3-0. On Tuesday, Blaney scored and added an assist in Mars’ semifinal victory over Westmont Hilltop.
The end of the second period came to a close with Mars up 3-0 having totally dominated the play. At that point, the shot count read 17-8 in Mars’ favor.
The third period continued in the same vain as defenseman Hunter Sacchini got in on the act with a power-play goal. Sacchini collected a pass from Heakins and drilled a slapper from the blue line to make the score 4-0.
Just 56 second later, Heakins scored his second goal of the game. He tallied his fourth point of the night when he hammered home a wrist shot from the crease after a pass from Blake Friday.
Hampton kept battling until the end and had a few late chances to score as Zach Kosick and Luke Leya both came close to tickling the twine. But Mars finished with the shutout.
Mars’ senior goaltender, Tyler Stepke, preserved the shutout and was happy to help his team to its third-straight Penguins Cup, and their first at CONSOL Energy Center.
Yet Stepke urged his side to remember they still have one more game to win to be crowned champions of Pennsylvania.
“We still have one more game,” said Stepke. “It feels good to win, it was a big game. But the next one is even bigger.”