Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

PIHL

States bound: PIHL champs looking for more hardware

Bishop McCort (left), Armstrong (center) and Seneca Valley (right) celebrate their Penguins Cup wins. -- Photos by ED MAJOR II, Graphic by BRIAN MITCHELL

Three PIHL Penguins Cup champions will advance to the Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championships, where they will play for the Pennsylvania Cup this Saturday at Ice Line in West Chester, Pa.

The Pennsylvania Cup format features one game at each classification between the Penguins Cup winners of the PIHL and the Flyers Cup winners from the eastern half of the state.

The games start at 11:30 a.m., when Single-A PIHL champions Bishop McCort will take on four-time defending Bayard Rustin. This time, the Golden Knights will be defending their title essentially on their home turf, as the school is just a few miles from the state championship venue. The Crushers, though, have been unbeaten in 23 games this season and posted a ridiculous plus-97 goal differential during the PIHL regular season.

If the PIHL is going to unseat Bayard Rustin as the top dogs in Single-A, Bishop McCort represents the western half of the state’s best chance in a while. The Crushers have won five state titles, but none since 1996. All five of Bayard Rustin’s have come since 2009. The winner of the game will become the first six-time Class-A state champion.

At 1:30 p.m., attention will turn to the Double-A classification, where Penguins Cup winner Armstrong will face defending state champions Downingtown East. It’ll be another case of the PIHL team playing what’s essentially a road game, and it’ll take the RiverHawks’ best to unseat the Cougars, who have won three of the last four Flyers Cups in the classification. This marks the first trip to the state title game for Armstrong since the district was formed by merger in 2014.

The finale will come in class Triple-A, where surprise Penguins Cup winner Seneca Valley will face St. Joseph’s Prep. The Raiders knocked off PIHL powerhouse Peters Township, and it’s a similar story on the eastern half of the bracket, where the Hawks bested three-time Flyers Cup winners Holy Ghost Prep to earn a state title bid. That game will face off at approximately 5 p.m.

The recent history of the Penguins Cup has been heavily tilted to the east. Peters Twp. was the only western winner last year, the Flyer Cup winners swept the titles in 2016. Cathedral Prep earned the only victory for the west in 2015, Peters Twp did the same in 2014. The last time the PIHL champs took home more than one trophy at states was in 2013, when North Allegheny and Latrobe prevailed.

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