In almost any sport, but certainly in hockey, when you lose a playoff game, that’s the end of your season.
Some players might keep going with a travel team. Others may look forward to a house league. But when the locker room closes after that final loss, that’s it. Seniors move on and underclassmen start to think about what they need to do to get ready for next year.
Except this season, in the PIHL’s Double-A classification, that’s not how it went down for one team.
When the final buzzer sounded at Ice Castle in Castle Shannon, Pa. last Thursday, the final score read Hampton 6, Upper St. Clair 2.
The Talbots were advancing to the semifinals, with a date set against top-ranked Armstrong. Upper St. Clair’s season was over.
But an unexpected development arose on Tuesday, when it was announced that Hampton would forfeit the game thanks to playing with an ineligible player. The PIHL issued the following statement:
“In the spirit of good sportsmanship, Hampton High School has informed the PIHL that they used an ineligible player in last weeks PIHL Varsity Quarter Final game against Upper St. Clair.”
Hampton posted the following to it the Talbot’s Twitter page:
“It is with great sadness that we have to announce our season is over due to a rules violation. Thanks to all the seniors for their years of hard work and dedication, the fans for their continued support, and all the players who played their hearts out.”
The change gave the Panthers a new lease on life. Instead, they’ll be the ones to suit up Wednesday against the No. 1-seeded RiverHawks, with a berth in the 2018 PIHL Penguins Cup final on the line.
Under normal circumstances, the Panthers would be underdogs. Having spent the last six days thinking their season was over instead of preparing for Armstrong probably won’t help their chances. But if there’s a lesson to be taken away from all of this, it’s that anything can happen in the playoffs.
The puck will drop at 7 p.m. between Armstrong and Upper St. Clair at RMU Island Sports Center on Wednesday night, followed by the second semifinal between Pine-Richland and Quaker Valley.