CRANBERRY TWP, Pa. — The Plum Mustangs, who were the highest scoring team in PIHL Class AA, piled on six goals to defeat red-hot Greater Latrobe, 6-1, to win the Penguins Cup on Wednesday.
Mustangs captain Anthony Borriello, who recorded a hat trick in the championship match, led by example on the ice and helped push the Mustangs to victory. The Mustangs proved that even on the biggest stage, they could score like champions.
“This just shows how far we’ve come,” said Borriello. “These past couple years, we’ve been in and out of the playoffs and were losing in the first round. We were able to put on a run, and with all the hard work we’ve put in, it’s finally payed off. It’s unbelievable.”
Mustangs head coach Vincent Somma has been very appreciative of Borriello and how he’s helped keep this team in line.
“He’s average, I’d say,” Somma joked. “He’s tremendous. He’s a great captain and a great leader. He plays with a passion that’s been unseen before. … He leads from the top. Our eleventh graders play with passion, our tenth graders play with passion, our freshman play with just as much passion because he plays that way. He’s impacted us tremendously.”
Borriello has been a strategic player on the bench for the Mustangs and has planned every move or tactic that his team will use. The veteran captain noted the team’s breakout as a key for their strategy.
“We had to start in our defensive zone,” said Borriello. “Once we started in our defensive zone, we pushed the puck into the neutral zone and came into the zone with speed. We really kept the cycle going and tried to just keep the puck moving.We knew had to get shots, we knew we had to get pucks to the net. It just worked out today.”
Greater Latrobe made it into the playoffs with a 9-9-1 record and was successful in defeating Mars, Moon, and Quaker Valley. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the team lost their biggest offensive weapon in the earlier stages of the game and weren’t able to recover. J.T. Schimizzi, who was the team’s leading scorer with 25 goals and 46 points, was hurt by a shot to the midsection. Schimizzi was taken to the hospital for an evaluation and did not return.
The atmosphere for this matchup was amazing. The bleachers in the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex were shaking from the cheering of fans from both teams. The game was hard fought between the two teams, and from almost the beginning of the game, tensions already seemed to be flaring. Multiple fights broke out throughout the game and 36 penalty minutes were assessed throughout the game (which included two game misconducts). Borriello noted that to avoid further injury and jeopardize the team’s Pennsylvania Cup chances, he had to take action to calm his fellow teammates down.
“I’ve been playing hockey for a long time and I know that some of these guys are younger,” said Borriello. “I’m just trying to go out there and be a leader and a role model for these guys. We had to get the puck off our stick and keep our heads up. We were up 6-1. We couldn’t worry about getting hurt.”
Dillon Joyce, who is an alternate captain for the Mustangs, tried to help Borriello with keeping his other team mates under control.
“We needed to calm people down,” said Joyce. “Especially with the crowd tonight, we just told the boys to calm down and play the game.”
The boys eventually did calm down, and in reward, the team finished as champions. Somma also proud of his team’s leaders for keeping the game in check and ending on a happy note.
“Our captain and our core keeps everything together,” said Somma. “The biggest thing is keeping our emotions in check. … We didn’t take any stupid penalties, we have everybody for Saturday. It’s a good day.”
WIN FOR THE COMMUNITY
Somma was proud of what his players were able to do; however, the Mustangs bench boss also felt the win was a way to give back to the community.
“This means a lot to our community,” said Somma. “There is no doubt about it. We are so proud, we love our community, and it’s such a great uplift for our community. … It’s awesome.”
GOING OUT ON TOP
Joyce couldn’t even put to words what the team’s title meant to the squad’s seniors.
“I don’t even have words,” he said. “To win in our senior year, I think we have ten seniors total, it’s amazing. To win in what could’ve been our last game was great and now we can keep going.”
“Everybody just stuck to the game plan and that’s why we came out up top,” added Borriello.
Plum will face the Downingtown East Cougars, who clinched the 2017 Class AA Flyer Cup, in Pennsylvania Cup on Saturday March 25, 2017. The time of the game has yet to be determined.