It’s championship Saturday for Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League teams.
The PIHL 84 Lumber Penguins Cup Championship Series culminates Saturday with three championship games at Mellon Arena – 1 p.m. (Class A), 3 p.m. (Class AA) and 5 p.m. (Class AAA).
Serra Catholic (21-2-1) vs. Quaker Valley (23-1-0), 1 p.m.
Serra Catholic is no stranger to the Penguins Cup championship game. The Eagles dropped a 5-2 decision to Bishop McCort in last year’s final. However, Serra Catholic posted a 3-0 win over the Crimson Crushers in a March 13 semifinal game. The Eagles have now ended Bishop McCort’s season six times in the past seven years, including three Penguins Cup championship triumphs over the Crimson Crushers (2000-02).
Eagles senior goaltender Nick Koroly was sharp in the semifinal game. He turned away all 36 shots he faced to blank Bishop McCort.
Steven Gruhalla provided all of Serra Catholic’s offense as he tallied a natural hat-trick.
Meanwhile, Quaker Valley is making its first-ever Penguins Cup championship game appearance.
The Quakers beat backyard rival Sewickley Academy, 6-3, in a March 13 semifinal game to get to Mellon Arena. Brothers Colin and Furman South combined for three goals and nine points in Quaker Valley’s triumph.
Quaker Valley sophomore Mikael Lemieux will become the third member of his family to skate at Mellon Arena in a game. Mikael, son of former Penguin Alain Lemieux and nephew of Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, led the Quakers with 46 points (19+27) in the regular season.
Penguins forward Eric Boguniecki will drop the first puck, while Penguins forward and Pittsburgh native Ryan Malone, who went to Upper St. Clair High School, will present postgame awards.
Pine-Richland (20-1-2) vs. Kittanning (15-5-4), 3 p.m.
Pine-Richland is back in the Penguins Cup championship game for the second-straight year. It dropped a 6-2 decision to Peters Township a year ago, but got revenge against the Indians this year. The Rams rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Peters Township, 4-3, in a March 14 semifinal game.
Senior Josh Fodor, the PIHL’s Class AA scoring leader, scored two goals. He provided the winning tally with 56 seconds to play to end Peters Township’s run of four-straight Penguins Cup championship game appearances.
Kittanning continued its string of postseason upsets with a 6-4 triumph over Bishop Canevin in a March 14 semifinal contest.
The physical Wildcats don’t have any dynamic scorers, and relied on a team game to win nine-straight games. They knocked off Moon, 6-2, to open the playoffs and followed with a 5-4 overtime triumph over Montour in the quarterfinals before downing the Crusaders.
Malone will drop the first puck and Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi will present the postgame awards.
Mount Lebanon (24-0-0) vs. North Allegheny (21-3-0), 5 p.m.
Mount Lebanon is the PIHL’s most-dangerous team. However, the Blue Devils needed a rally to top defending champ Bethel Park, 4-3, in a March 15 semifinal. Until that contest, Mount Lebanon had yielded only one goal since Jan. 2 and had not trailed in a game since Nov. 14.
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils showed they could handle adversity. The Black Hawks posted a 2-1 lead, but Mount Lebanon rallied to grab a 4-3 edge at the end of the second period. The Blue Devils held on for the victory in front of 1,400-plus spectators at the Ice Castle.
The Blue Devils’ top line of Tyler Murovich (25+45), Josh Mandic (19+36) and Shane Ferguson (29+36) – son of former Penguin George Ferguson – combined for 190 points in the regular season. The three had five points against Bethel Park.
North Allegheny cruised into its second-straight championship game with a 7-0 rout of Meadville on March 15.
Alan Halapin delivered a natural hat-trick to fuel the Tigers past the Bulldogs. Max Richards turned away all 15 shots he faced to blank Meadville in the postseason for only the fourth time in its program’s storied history. It also snapped the Bulldogs’ 16-game unbeaten streak.
North Allegheny hopes to capture the Penguins Cup championship it lost last year when Bethel Park upset the Tigers, 1-0.
Scuderi will drop the first puck, while Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik will present the postgame awards.
Tickets for the Penguins Cup championship games are $5 for students and $7 for adults. They are available at the Mellon Arena Gate One Box Office.
FSN Pittsburgh will televise the games on a tape-delayed basis on March 27, 28 and April 1.
The three Penguins Cup champions advance to face the Flyers Cup winners in the state championship games at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island on April 8.