Pine-Richland had a chance to join elite company Wednesday night at Mellon Arena.
Brandon Saad made sure the Rams did exactly that as the freshman sensation netted three goals.
Pine-Richland became the third PIHL unbeaten champion with a 5-3 win over Bethel Park in the 84 Lumber Penguins Cup Class AAA championship.
The Rams (24-0) captured their third-straight Penguins Cup championship, but first in Class AAA after moving up from Class AA this season.
The contest got off to a good start for Bethel Park as Tyler Trocano knocked in a rebound for a power-play goal with 4:08 left in the first period. Zack Blake and Chris Mandia had the assists.
Matt Quigley’s unassisted goal gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 just 3:20 into the second period.
Brandon Saad got the Rams on the scoreboard with 7:08 left in the second period when he wristed a shot into the net. His brother George Saad assisted on the play.
The Rams stormed out of the gate in the third period with a pair of goals in 54 seconds to start the frame. Brandon Saad’s wrister found the back of the net 29 seconds into the period. George Saad and Dylan Trombetta assisted on the play.
Eric Febert ripped a puck into the net 25 seconds later for a 3-2 Pine-Richland lead on an unassisted goal.
“We didn’t really make adjustments to start the third, we just talked to the kids about playing more as a team,” Pine-Richland coach Bob Kennedy said. “We got down 2-0 and they wanted to play as individuals and that played right into Bethel Park’s hands. Once we started moving the puck, they couldn’t contain us.”
Tom Whetsel deflected a puck into the goal for a power-play tally with 7:58 remaining to knot the score at 3-all for Bethel Park. Mandia and Trocano had the assists.
However, the Rams were too tough as Brandon Saad’s powerful wrister deflected off goaltender Ben Garcia’s glove and trickled into the net for a 4-3 Pine-Richland lead with 6:26 to go.
Febert added the insurance goal with 1:40 left on the clock when he banked a shot into the net. Jared Bagnato earned the assist.
The Rams will play in the Pennsylvania Cup state championship game on March 29 at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown against the Flyers Cup winner, either LaSalle or Holy Ghost Prep.
QuakerValley 3, Mars 1
Colin South’s hat-trick led the Quakers back to the Penguins Cup championship.
Quaker Valley won the title in 2006, but was upset in last year’s championship game. Nevertheless, South powered the Quakers to victory with three goals.
Mike Heltman floated a shot into the net with 2:05 remaining in the first period to give Mars a 1-0 lead. Sean Roach and Brady Sipe earned the assists.
Colin South banged in his own rebound with 2:53 left in the second to knot the score at 1-all. George Jackson and Cody Scott had the assists for Quaker Valley.
South gave the Quakers (23-2) a 2-1 advantage with less than a second remaining in the second period. A puck deflected high in the air and landed in front of the Mars goal. South skated in and tapped the puck into the net just before time expired. Noah Zamagias and Robert Karvinen had the assists.
South ripped a power-play goal to give Quaker Valley at 3-1 lead with 2:56 reamaining. Jackson assisted on the goal.
The Quakers advance to the Pennsylvania Cup state championship game on March 29 at the Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown against the Flyers Cup champion, either West Chester Rustin or West Chester East.