The player who scored the two prettiest goals of the Peters Township versus Pine Richland game on Wednesday?
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He just switched to forward this season.
Taylor Cox played defense all of last year before embarking on a scoring binge near the end of the campaign that prompted Peters Township coach Rick Tingle to ask him if he would consider moving up top.
It’s surely a decision that Tingle doesn’t regret, as Cox scored one of the Indians’ two hat tricks (Trevor Recktenwald notching the other) to lead the top-seeded Peters Township to an 8-1 victory over eighth-seeded Pine Richland at the Iceoplex at Southpointe.
Peters Township earned the top seed in Class AA with their impressive 17-2-1 regular-season record, and they proved why they deserve that No. 1 spot with their impressive performance on Wednesday.
But the Indians themselves aren’t quite satisfied with the way they played, as the Rams earned a multitude of scoring chances early in the opening frame that nearly translated to the scoreboard.
“We didn’t play the best possible defense (Wednesday),” Cox said. “I think they outshot us in the first two periods. We got it back in the third. We just need to tighten up our D zone.”
“Those were the chances we had to bury at the beginning to really get the momentum on our side,” Rams captain Ryan Hanahan said. ‘But it just wasn’t working out.”
Peters Township goalie Woody Shell stood tall through the Rams flurry and withstood the Pine Richland barrage before getting Cox started on a rush that translated into a goal for the Indians.
“He was the one that really got the ball rolling,” Cox said of Shell. “He made some big saves before, just got us going. He led the puck to me and went down and scored.”
Cox banked the puck off the boards to himself before deking a Ram defender with a beautiful fluid move that he flipped over Rams goalie Grant Goldberg’s shoulder to give his team a 1-0 lead.
With 9:30 remaining in the second, Cox embarked on a two-on-one break with a teammate before deftly sidestepping the defender and tucking the puck into the net to give the Indians a 3-0 lead after Recktenwald tallied with 9:46 left in the first.
Alex Dagnal also scored and Recktenwald added two more goals to power Peters Township.
“It’s my first of the season, so it was a big deal,” Recktenwald said of his hat trick. “Hopefully I can keep it going throughout the semis and hopefully the Penguins Cup.”
The Rams put forth a great effort, with Scott Mcaliney cutting the Indians’ lead to 4-1 with his power-play tally with 7:14 left in the second period.
But in the end, the Rams just couldn’t withstand the depth of a loaded Indians squad.
“We had some chances early, and we just couldn’t capitalize on them,” Pine Richland coach Mike Bagnato said. “And then some pucks didn’t bounce our way, and they scored a couple of goals. Before you know it, you’re behind and you’re playing catch-up with them, and you’re just not going to be able to keep up with them if that’s the case. They’re as good as any team in high school hockey.”
Bagnato couldn’t be prouder of his team, who battled their way to a 5-3 victory over Erie Cathedral Prep to even make it this far in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League postseason picture.
“The kids will come to the realization of the experience and what a great year we had,” he said. “We really did have a good year. That’s a great group of kids back there.”
Going forward, the Indians are planning on ironing out the details of their game in order to redeem last season’s semifinals exit at the hands of perennial powerhouse Greater Latrobe.
“Usually the toughest game for us, historically, has been the semifinal games,” Tingle 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.”