CRANBERRY TWP., Pa. — Peters Township and North Allegheny entered the PIHL postseason as the No. 1 and No. 3 scoring offenses in Class-AAA.
But Tuesday in the 2019 Penguins Cup final, the Indians and Tigers put on a defensive display, blocking shots, sliding to clog passing lanes, and back-checking with abandon.
One of the few slip-ups came in the second period, when North Allegheny’s Aaron Miller took advantage of a rare miscue to score a huge goal that the Tigers to their third Penguins Cup.
“To get the first goal, and get on that momentum ride, that’s something that’s really going to carry us throughout the game,” Miller said.
Just moments into the period, Will Perreaguire, who had scored the double-overtime goal in the semifinals that got North Allegheny to the championship game, forced a puck loose on the forecheck just outside the Peters Township zone, and just like that, he and Miller were in on a 2-on-0. Miller held on to the puck, darted to his left, and waited out Peters goaltender Alex Wilbert before putting the puck in the top half of the net to break what had been a deadlocked contest.
In the third period, a fluky goal stung the Indians, when Justin Symons took a harmless-looking wrist shot from the point that found a way through traffic and past Wilbert to give the Tigers a 2-0 advantage.
From there, the defensive clinic continued, with both squads showing outstanding hustle and battle level and Wilbert and Richard Karapandi taking care of what made it through. Karapandi added the postseason shutout to the three he earned in the regular season and finished his three-game postseason run by stopping 103 of 106 shots for a .972 save percentage.
“Oh my gosh, Richie has been insane all season,” Miller said. “He keeps us in every game. It helps so much knowing we have a brick wall behind us.”
“We did talk a lot about getting in the lane and not giving shots up,” coach Michael Bagnato said. “If we didn’t give them chances in key situations, we knew Richie could stop them.”
Miller later added an empty-net goal. Wilbert stopped 20 of 22 in a strong effort in the loss.
North Allegheny will face Flyers Cup champions LaSalle in the 2019 Class-AAA Pennsylvania Cup on Saturday afternoon at RMU Island Sports Center.