HARMAR TWP., Pa. — The Pitt Panthers locked up the CHMA regular season championship – and the conference’s bid to nationals – two weeks ago. Friday night, though, was still a special game. Pitt’s senior night featured 11 seniors. These seniors came in as freshman when the program had little to boast about, despite having existed in some form or another since the early 1970’s. This group of seniors helped Pitt bring home the team’s first CHMA playoff championship in 2016 and their first regular season championship in 2017. They went out with a bang this season, winning a back-to-back regular season championships and hoping to make a deep run in the ACHA national tournament.
Unfortunately, they ended the regular season Friday night with a 3-2 overtime loss to John Carroll. The teams were as evenly matched as possible through the first two periods. The Panthers had an edge in shots, 20-14, but had not been able to find the back of the net. Missed passes, especially in the second period, were partially to blame, though luck played a role as well. One shot rang off the right post and another hit John Carroll goaltender Charlie Denner square in the back as he was trying to get up from the previous diving save.
Later on, in the third, things got interesting. John Carroll put up a goal just under four minutes in to take the lead. The Panthers responded with two goals of their own by Craig Mazzotta at 10:07 and Thomas Kang at 9:03. The Blue Streaks came back to tie it with just over two minutes to go and Denner made a remarkable kick save with the right pad with five seconds to go to send the game to overtime. It didn’t last long though, as John Carroll took the win, 3-2, with a goal just 19 seconds in.
Although the Panthers have already locked up the #1 seed in the payoffs next weekend, the loss was still disappointing. On the other side, the Blue Streaks had reasons to celebrate. Not only are they the only conference team to beat Pitt this season (doing so twice), they’ve passed Slippery Rock to take the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. This guarantees that if they defeat IUP next Friday night, they will go on to play Robert Morris in the second round instead of Pitt. Although, John Carroll probably wouldn’t mind facing the Panthers again in the playoffs; they’ve defeated Pitt the last three times these teams have met, dating back to last year’s CHMA championship.
MAJOR FOCUS: Heartbreaking loss for the Panthers on senior night
Weekend scores from around the CHMA:
Adrian 13, Mercyhurst 1
Duquesne 3, Penn State Berks 6
John Carroll 3, Pitt 2 (OT)
Central Oklahoma 5, Robert Morris 1
Rochester 5, Slippery Rock 4
Adrian 8, Mercyhurst 3
West Virginia, 1, Liberty 9
Duquesne 4, Drexel 5 (SO)
Central Oklahoma 3, Robert Morris 4 (OT)
Rochester 2, Slippery Rock 7
Eastern Michigan 7, John Carroll 2
The CHMA final standings are listed below. Duquesne missed the No. 6 seed in the playoffs by virtue of IUP holding the head-to-head points tiebreaker. The playoffs, to be held at Mercyhurst Ice Center next weekend, will feature No. 3 John Carroll versus No. 6 IUP and No. 4 Slippery Rock versus No. 5 Mercyhurst on Friday, February 23. No. 1 Pitt and No. 2 Robert Morris each have a first-round bye. Pitt will then play the lowest remaining seed on Saturday, February 24, with Robert Morris playing the highest remaining seed. The championship game will be on Sunday, February 25.
|Robert Morris (PA)*||9||3||1||19|
* = denotes CHMA playoff team
** = denotes regular season champion and the conference’s automatic national tournament bid.
Check out the ACHA schedule here for other upcoming ACHA games.