NEVILLE TWP, Pa. —Indiana Area didn’t trail for a single second of its semifinal playoff matchup against Montour on Tuesday. However, the game did not play out as easily as it may sound. Montour took Indiana into overtime, and it was not until then when Indiana pulled away with a 5-4 victory on a shot from Pat O’Neal.
“Somehow we found a way to win,” exclaimed head coach Jordan Haines. “It wasn’t pretty, but we worked hard, we blocked shots, we killed penalties and we found a way.”
Indiana jumped out to a 3-0 lead. However, two goals in 15 seconds about halfway through the second period changed the pace of play. Indiana took a 4-2 lead before two straight goals tied it back up.
Finally, four minutes into overtime, Indiana saw a power play goal bounce in off of the stick of forward Pat O’Neal.
“We knew we had to capitalize early on the power play,” O’Neal said in describing his goal. “Mitchell Lewis got the puck, we had to regroup in the zone, they gave me space and he found me. Then I just put the puck on net.”
POWER PLAY SUCCESS
The goal was not their first power play goal of the game. In fact, Indiana had eight power play chances, and cashed in four times.
“We work on our power play four times a week,” mentioned Haines. “Especially coming into the playoffs, with emotions high, penalties are going to happen. We’re gonna take penalties, we are going to get chances, but it comes down to being confident in our power play.”
For the Indians, their confidence comes from familiarity.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” added Pat O’Neal. “We know where each other is on the ice and we dedicate a lot of time to the power play in practice to make it count in games.”
It counted tonight, as special teams was the clear difference is this game.
On the other hand, the Indians gave up just as many power play chances as they had. However, while they went 4-8 on the power play, they held Montour to 0-7 with the extra man. If they did not win the game with their power play, they most certainly did with their penalty kill.
“We always say, ‘bare down, block shots, and make sure you get the puck 200 feet when you can.” mentioned Pat O’Neal.
While O’Neal made it sound simple, it is a much harder task to execute. Both O’Neal and Haines mentioned that this is not the style that they will be able to play moving forward, and that while they preach good special teams, seven penalty kills is pushing the line.
“We can’t have our top guys in the box,” mentioned Haines. “I’ll take aggressive penalties, but undisciplined penalties from our top players? We can’t have that.”
“We really learned from this game not to get caught up in extracurriculars,” added O’Neal.
The survival means moving onto the Penguin Cup championship game and a date with top seed Franklin Regional. Indiana is 0-2 against Franklin Regional this season, losing by a combined score of 11-4. The Indians know that while they survived and advanced, they still have to touch up their game, and a bring a more complete effort into their next task.
“Tonight was an eye opener,” said O’Neal. “Especially for the physicality of the playoffs. Franklin is going to play the same way so we need to make sure we are ready for it. They know what we have, we know what they have.”
Coach Haines used one word in describing what the Indians are going to have to bring to pull off the upset.
The two will square off on Tuesday, March 21 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.