NEVILLE TWP., Pa — Two tired teams that gave it all they had for four plus periods on Thursday night and into Friday morning at RMU Island Sports Center.
One slip, one shot and it was all over.
Will Parreaguirre’s shot propelled North Allegheny to a hard-fought 2-1 double overtime victory over Bethel Park. With the win, the Tigers punched their ticket to the Class-AAA PIHL Penguins Cup championship game.
The goal, which came at 5:06 of the second overtime, was the result of capitalizing on a Bethel Park turnover at the blue line, which created an instant three-on-one into the Bethel Park end.
With the puck and season on his stick, Parreaguirre made no mistake sending a hard wrister to the back of the cage behind Bethel Park goaltender Nicholas Guimond.
“Will missed the first half of our season,” Tiger head coach Mike Bagnato said of the game winning goal provider. “He tore his meniscus and had surgery and we didn’t have him until January. He’s been working hard and we’re starting to see the groove he’s getting into and when he’s playing like that he’s one of our top guys.”
Scoring chances were hard to come by for both squads from the drop of the puck as the defenses were on point and the goaltenders came up big when called upon. The physical intensity was present throughout the game as evidenced by multiple roughing and slashing penalties and bone crunching checks.
“They were awesome,” Bagnato added speaking to his defense and goaltender. “We have a very strong group of seniors there and they all played very well. If we keep the play out on Ritchie (Karapandi) and let him see the puck, he’s going to stop it. It’s a great group of kids, I’m so happy for them. ”
Tyler Putnam put the Tigers out front early with a shot from between the circles that beat Guimond at 6:11 of the first period with assists going to Vincent Abel and Dylan Watkins. The defensive struggle then continued as either side looked for a moment to capitalize on throughout the remainder of the first and over half of the second period.
The Black Hawks managed to turn momentum and earn some prime chances past the halfway point of the second frame. They took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play when Bethel Park forward Jeffrey Bele found Austin Read near the side of the net for a tap in goal with Tigers netminder Richard Karapandi out of position to knot the score at one apiece.
However, the final period of regulation saw little space for either team to create with. Bethel Park managed to put down a Tigers power play with relative ease to help move the game along to overtime.
North Allegheny will advance to face Peters Township, in the PIHL Class-AAA Penguins Cup final on Tuesday, March 19 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.