Pittsburgh Hockey Digest


Seneca Valley uses special teams to roll into semifinals

Seneca Valley forward Noah Watkiss stretches. -- JASON KOSHINSKIE

ERIE, Pa. — Zach Broskey knew he had to score. In a game without many quality scoring chances, it was likely the only one he was going to get.

With the game tied in the third period, the Seneca Valley forward found himself wide open steaking down the right side. Preston Watkiss fed him a tape-to-tape pass through the neutral zone. Suddenly Broskey was all alone against Cathedral Prep goaltender Brandon Dumas.

“Once I got the pass, I knew I had to make it count,” Broskey said. “The only thing I was thinking about was where should I shoot it.”

His wrister from inside the right circle went low of the left post and in. It ended up being the game winner.

Fifth-place Seneca Valley (11-8-2 PIHL) built on the momentum and defeated fourth-seeded Cathedral Prep (10-8-3 PIHL) 3-1 March 9 at Mercyhurst Ice Center in a AAA quarterfinal playoff matchup.


The tightly-contested contest featured more special teams play than either head coach would have liked. Both teams notched a power play goal with Seneca Valley going 1-for-6 with the man advantage and Cathedral Prep going 1-for-5. Cathedral Prep took three straight penalties to start the game but killed them off.

The Ramblers, however, would get on the board first. Seneca Valley’s Chris Lipnicky took a holding penalty that carried over into the second period. Cathedral Prep’s Jacob Emerson deflect a shot, putting the puck on edge and it trickled past Seneca Valley goaltender Dylan Sloat.

“We didn’t want to get into a lot of special teams with them,” said Seneca Valley head coach Anthony Raco. “We watch a lot of film on them and know where they like to shoot it from.”
Sloat wouldn’t surrender another goal, stopping 24 of 25 shots.
“The biggest thing was we wanted to make it easier on him,” Raco said. “Blocking shots was a big key to that.”


The Raiders seized their opportunity when a Cathedral Prep high sticking penalty carried over into the third period. Broskey found Chris Lipnicky open in the slot just 37 seconds into the frame, and Lipnicky buried it to tie the game 1-1.

“On the power play, we were struggling,” Lipnicky said. “We talked about it between periods. If we could get one, we knew we’d be OK. We got the jump on them. It was important because we didn’t want to go down by two to them.”

Seneca Valley would kill off a brief 5-on-3 Cathedral Prep power play before Broskey’s tally at the 6:43 mark put the Raiders up for good. Giovanni Sarachine added an empty netter with 1:02 left.

Seneca Valley will face No. 1 seed Central Catholic at 6:45 p.m. March 15 at RMU Island Sports Center with a berth in the Penguins Cup final on the line.

“We showed some resiliency and we’re going to enjoy this one for now,” Raco said. “But I told the guys after the game, it’s like climbing a mountain. The higher you get, the harder it is. It’s not going to be given to us. We have to earn it.”


The loss dethrones Cathedral Prep, winners of the last two league titles, a state Class AA championship in 2015 and a state runner-up finish in AAA in 2016. This season’s roster and coaching staff look different, but the mindset hasn’t changed.
“There’s no disappointment in our effort,” said Dan Parra, the Ramblers’ first-year bench boss. “The boys were up to the task. When both teams have speed and are evenly matched, it’s anybody’s game. We ended up coming out on the wrong end.”

Parra, who replaced current PIHL commissioner Craig Barnett as coach this season after serving as an assistant on last year’s team, led the Ramblers to nine straight league wins.

“We graduate five impressive kids who have been here through the ups and downs,” said Parra, holding an oar, part of the Ramblers’ motto – “Row the boat.”

“Everybody’s got an oar,” he said. “Every player has to do his part. I’m proud of those guys, and I’m proud of our team.”

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