|Penn Trafford and Norwin opened the Class AAA playoffs with a thrilling back-and-forth affair at Center Ice Arena. The Warriors defeated the Knights, 5-4.
Monday night’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League Class AAA postseason opener between Penn Trafford and Norwin featured all the elements one would expect from a rivalry game.
There were a couple spectacular goals, several timely saves, more than a fair share of bone-jarring hits and an upset victory. When the final buzzer sounded it was the 11th-seeded Warriors ending sixth-seeded Norwin’s season with a seesaw 5-4 victory at Center Ice Arena.
“It made it special for us to beat them,” goaltender Mike Cheswick said. “This should give us some confidence heading into next game.”
“It had been a while since we got past the first round,” Penn Trafford head coach Steve Viron said.
As happy as Viron and his team was to escape an opening-round thriller, Penn Trafford knows they are going to have to be even better in round two when they face either No. 1 seed Shaler or No. 2 seed Upper St. Clair.
“When you are an 11th seed you are going to face an uphill battle,” Viron said. “I think these kids are excited to do that.”
Penn Trafford’s championship dreams are alive thanks in large part to a pair of first-period goals from senior defenseman Kevin Fulton, 28 saves from Cheswick and two goals 11 seconds apart late in the third period by Conlan Sodrosky and Chris Corrales.
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The fact that Penn Trafford even had a chance to pull off the upset late in the game is a testament to the calmness displayed in net by Cheswick. The sophomore backstop saw 14 shots in the opening frame as Norwin came out dominating puck possession and the pace of the game.
However, as Norwin kept pressing, Cheswick simply made one save after another. He made 13 saves in the first period, none better than a left-shoulder stop on Nico Vecchio’s point-blank chance at 6:49. Cheswick also made two fabulous saves on Andrew Mastele with 1:59 to play in the period while lying prone on the ice.
“I think what you saw from (Cheswick) tonight was him not playing for just himself out there, but for the 15 or 16 kids in front of him,” Viron said. “Once he shut (Norwin) down early, that gave us the confidence to move the puck up ice.”
“I was able to make some good saves for us early,” Cheswick said. “I was just trying to keep us in it.”
Norwin’s relentless attack did pay off eventually as Dan Merz opened the scoring by capitalizing on the rebound of a Vecchio shot at the five-minute mark.
The Merz tally would be Norwin’s only lead of the night as Fulton picked up a loose puck in the slot 1:16 later during a delayed penalty against the Knights and tossed it into the cage to tie the score, 1-1.
Fulton gave the Warriors the lead with just 15 seconds to play in the opening period when he took a drop pass from Charles Dusetzina and unleashed a slap shot which beat Norwin netminder Scott Cromling over the blocker for a 2-1 lead.
Norwin fought back to even the score 1:26 into the second period when senior Anthony Maroadi banked a shot off the body of Cheswick from below the goal line at the right of the cage on a power play.
Penn Trafford regained the lead, 3-2, heading into the second period intermission when Charles Boyer kept jamming away at a loose puck around the Knights crease with 3:58 to play in the period.
It appeared Norwin might have run out of chances to mount a comeback on their archrival after failing to score on two third-period power plays and watching Cheswick stone Vecchio with a pad save on a breakaway attempt at 8:56.
|Penn Trafford celebrates their 5-4 victory over Norwin on Monday night in the opening round of the 2010 PIHL playoffs. |
Vecchio, who was easily the best player on the ice for either team with a goal and three helpers, had other ideas. As the time on the clock slowly dwindled, the junior forward walked out of the near corner before dancing around two Warrior defenders prior to tucking a shot past Cheswick to tie the game, 3-3, with 3:48 remaining.
With overtime then seemingly on the horizon, Sodrosky and Corrales tallied 11 seconds apart, the second of which came with just 1:42 remaining, giving Penn Trafford what looked like a 5-3 victory.
“I was happy to get that one,” Corrales said. “Our whole team was working hard.”
But this time it was Norwin who wouldn’t go away. Maroadi picked up his second goal of the game on the power play with 27 seconds to play to make it 5-4. Then, Cheswick made one final clutch save on Norwin defender Steve Sonnik with 10 seconds to play as the senior walked down the slot and fired a hard, low shot on goal.
“I just reacted to that one,” Cheswick said.Class A Roundup: Quaker Valley 2, Sewickley Academy 1
Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy featured a hard fought, defensive battle Monday night. In the end it was Quaker Valley edging out a 2-1 victory to advance into the next round of the PIHL playoffs.
Eighth-seeded Quaker Valley received goals from Scott Pulkowski in the second period and Jake Pilewicz in the third, as well as a 25-save effort from Zach Gittins.
Mike Tulley scored the lone goal for Sewickley Academy while Jimmy Compliment stopped 22 shots in a losing effort.