NEVILLE TOWNSHIP – The Peters Township hockey team has had plenty of 1-0 leads this season.
Just usually early in the opening period, not with a couple minutes left in the third.
That, however, was the case Wednesday at RMU’s Island Sports Center in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AAA semifinals against State College.
Caught in a rare, tight game, the top-seeded Indians needed Alex DeBolt’s goal with just over three minutes to go in the third period to finally secure a 3-0 win over the Little Lions and advance to Consol Energy Center for the third consecutive year.
“With a one-goal lead, we didn’t expect to win,” DeBolt said. “So we needed one more to seal the deal.”
Which Debolt’s wrister from the right hash did.
It also ensured Peters Township will get another crack at the PIHL final, a stage on which the Indians have lost the past two seasons.
Peters Township (19-4) will play North Allegheny (17-4-2) Wednesday for the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AAA championship.
“It’s a great atmosphere playing down there,” captain Trevor Recktenwald said. “It would be great to get a win there this year.”
Keenan Witmer scored his third goal of the season on a fluke play early in the second period, Brian Baker made 15 saves, and Recktenwald added an empty-netter late for the Indians, who stretched their winning streak to 15.
The Indians also contained State College’s Stefan Horgas, who entered the game with a Class AAA-best 54 goals and 82 points.
“Our skill guys are used to getting those breakaways or getting the two-on-ones,” State College coach Brett Wilson said. “But (Peters Township) did a great job of having a guy back and clogging the middle.”
Baker, who was nothing short of spectacular at times, helped keep the game scoreless by sliding to his right to thwart a two-on-one break for State College early in the second period.
He later stopped Korgas on back-to-back breakaways and helped manage a stretch where Peters Township took a penalty 46 seconds after the previous one expired.
“I thought the defense broke down there, and I thought that was going to be a change in the game,” Baker said. “The defense bounced back after that.”
Witmer gave Peters Township a 1-0 lead when he threw an innocent-looking shot on net from the top of the right circle, one that State College goaltender Zach Woytowich either didn’t see or lost track of.
That slim lead – it was just the fifth time in 23 games Peters Township had been held to three or few goals – proved to be enough, though, as DeBolt and Recktenwald provided some much-needed insurance.
At least if the Indians planned on breathing down the stretch.
“That was the kind game that we knew we were going to get in the playoffs,” Peters Township coach Rick Tingle said. “We scored seven (goals) in the quarterfinals and didn’t have one of those tight, gut-wrenching games. This was the perfect kind of game to go into Consol, to know that you can be in a game 1-0 with five minutes to go and still have the fortitude to pull it out.”