PIHL

UPSET SPECIAL: Peters Township wins third straight over higher seed to claim Penguins Cup

Matthew Michalowski skates in the Class AAA Penguins Cup final. -- DAVID HAGUE

CRANBERRY TWP, Pa. — Right in time for March Madness, and bracket busting the PIHL saw their own version of a Cinderella sleeper in the Class AAA Penguins Cup Championship.

The perfect ingredients for a Cinderella team are a team with experience, depth, and a team that stumbled early, but clicked at the right time late. Peters Township checked all of those boxes, and as the sixth seed entering the tournament, they rattled off three straight wins, including a 5-2 win over Pittsburgh Central Catholic to solidify the Penguins Cup on Wednesday.

Peters Township got down early, but despite heading into the first intermission trailing 1-0, they fought back and scored five of the next six goals, eventually wearing down their opponent to claim their second Penguins Cup in the past three years.

WINNING WITH DEPTH

Peters wore their opponent down in the literal sense, as this is a team that goes four lines strong very easily, and does not play with a go-to line like some other local teams do.

“We have a full team,” mentioned head coach Rick Tingle. “Other teams cater to their top players, but we play all of our lines equally. We came in with 15-16 forwards on our roster to start the season. It was tough to find the right guys to play but we saw competition work itself out, and depth has been a part of our gameplan since game one.”

The depth showed as Pittsburgh Central Catholic ran out of gas, and at about the halfway point of the game, it became clear that Peters Township was, in fact, the better team.

The Indians celebrate their championship. — DAVID HAGUE

NOT A CINDERERLLA?

While most would see the sixth seed running the table and taking the championship as the perfect feel good story, Tingle and his team saw it more as a team deserving to be there, clicking at the right time.

“We came into this season with a young team,” described Tingle. “We had three goalies, and it took some time to find our hot hand. We had a terrible middle of the year where we lost a lot of our core players for multiple games. But we turned it around. Some may say that is a Cinderella story, but it did not feel like that. It just felt like we had good timing this year. We always have a good team, but this team wanted it and you could see it tonight.”

Whether it be a magical run or the right place at the right time, it is tough to deny the depth, talent, and ability for this to gel together in a hurry to play their best hockey.

LATE GAME CHIPPINESS

As the game went on, and Pittsburgh Central Catholic started to feel the heat, a lot of late extracurricular activity began to arise. The third period alone saw eight penalties, five on Central Catholic, three on Peters Township. It also included two players for Central Catholic receiving game misconducts and a roughing penalty late in the game from Peters Township.

Tingle did not see it as a major problem on his team’s end, however.

“The physicality plays to our strong suit, which is our depth and our forecheck,” explained Tingle.

Of course, it is not as big of a problem when you are on the opposite side of five late penalties and two game misconducts.

“Two of their better players got too emotional, and they took themselves out of the game, but we just played our style,” he added.

On top of wearing his opponents, his team was forcing mistakes from the opposition that was actually taking them out of the game.

ON TO STATES

The next stop for Peters Township is now the state championship and a date with Holy Ghost Prep, the winners of the Flyers Cup. While Tingle and his group do not know much about Holy Ghost Prep, they do know what to expect.

“We expect a lot of club players, a lot of Junior Flyers,” said Tingle. “I am sure they’ll have talented kids who really know how to play hockey. It will be a good test.”

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