GATES MILLS, OH., — The Pitt Panthers used a six-goal third period and stellar goaltending to advance to the CHMA Championship, defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers 9-1 Saturday at Gilmour Academy Ice Arena.
The previous two matchups between these clubs were resounding Pitt victories; the Panthers won 7-0 on November 5 and 12-3 on February 6. Still, head coach Stu Rulnick said before the game that those scores don’t mean anything in the playoffs.
“We can’t take anyone lightly. You can’t assume something is gonna happen because then it won’t happen.”
And it certainly looked like Saturday’s playoff game would be different than the previous two. West Virginia came out of the gate carrying the momentum gained from the Mountaineers’ thrilling 6-5 overtime victory the night before against Robert Morris. The first five minutes were all West Virginia, but Panther goaltender Grant Lindsay stayed strong in net, keeping zeros on the board.
“They had nothing to lose, so you expect them to be aggressive,” said Lindsay after the game.
Finally, Pitt’s offense got some steam. Two goals less than a minute apart by Will Studt and Brendan Johns gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead. Tyler Howcroft eventually got one back for West Virginia just over the halfway point of the period to cut the Pitt lead in half, 2-1.
Pitt Captain Alex Crilley added the only goal of the second period to make it 3-1 Panthers. Still, it was anyones game. Jacob Hough made one spectacular save after another for West Virginia to keep the game close.
Unfortunately, his luck ran out in the third. Six goals from the Panthers, including two from Oldrich Virag, have Pitt the decisive 9-1 victory. Hough was chased after asking the sixth Panther goal of the game. Ben Gruber came in to relieve Hough and promptly gave up three goals himself.
The Panthers will play the winner of IUP and John Carroll in the CHMA Championship Sunday, Feb. 20, 2022.
MAJOR FOCUS: PITT DOMINATES WEST VIRGINIA, ADVANCES TO CHMA CHAMPIONSHIP