NEVILLE TWP., Pa, — In a hotly contested battle, the skill of the Peters Township Indians proved to be one goal better than the gritty will of the Mount Lebanon Blue Devils as Mark Lehman’s overtime game winner gave his team a 3-2 victory in double overtime on Thursday night at RMU Island Sports Center and advanced Peters Township to the PIHL Class-AAA Penguins Cup final.
It was a nip-and-tuck game from the puck drop and saw both goaltenders, Indians starter Alex Wilbert and Blue Devils starting netminder Bradley Weaver make incredible saves on point-blank chances in both overtime periods.
“It took persistence,” Peters Township head coach Rick Tingle said. “They have an extremely talented player in Wyatt George. And it took us off our game having to focus on him and it kept us from playing the way we normally play. It felt like a sloppy game to me, but we had it under control.”
The Blue Devils were not able to mount much in the way pressure or organize an attack to start the third period, but they got better as they went along and got rewarded. Griffin Erdley’s seemingly harmless cross ice pass from deep in the left circle deflected past Alex Wilbert to send the game to overtime.
The Indians came out like they’d been shot out of a cannon to open the game as they put the rubber to Weaver early and often. However, thanks to some key saves and timely clears from his defense, the Blue Devils were able to strike first. Wyatt George found a lob from deep in his team’s territory and found himself all alone on a breakaway which he buried past Alex Wilbert in the Indians net. Mount Lebanon found a few more chances before the end of the opening frame that Wilbert turned aside to keep it a one goal lead.
Roles were reversed at the start of the second frame. The Indians pressured the Blue Devils defense on virtually every shift, cycling the puck down low to earn one chance after another. The Wilbert’s then went to work on the score sheet as Eric Wilbert stripped a Blue Devils defender in the corner and took the puck to the net, beating Weaver to tie the score at 1:49 of the second period. Andrew Wilbert then put the Indians in front with a power play tally from close range at 12:15, capping the scoring for a period that saw them out shoot the Blue Devils by an 18-5 margin.
Peters Township will advance to the Class-AAA 2019 PIHL Penguins Cup final on Tuesday, March 19 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.