PITTSBURGH – Peters Township forward Jonathan Dagnal always dreamed of playing on the sheet of ice at Consol Energy Center.
He got his wish Monday night as the Indians battled rival Bethel Park for the Class AAA Penguins Cup, and Dagnal took advantage of the rare opportunity by recording his second hat trick in as many games to propel Peters Township to a 4-2 victory.
It’s Peters Township’s first Penguins Cup championship since 2005 and its first since joining the PIHL’s Class AAA division.
“I think it could not have gone any better,” Dangal said of his six goals in two games. “I played well in the semifinals – I did the same thing I did here. I worked really hard, played my game and kept it simple.”
Much like his three-goal performance against Penn Trafford last week, Dagnal broke the scoreless tie, at the 3:01 mark in the second period, when he wove up the far boards and found room at the faceoff circle where he fired a wrist shot that went over the glove of Bethel Park goalie William Lowe for a 1-0 Peters Township lead.
“He was cheating toward the near side, so I went far side and put it over his shoulder,” Dagnal said. “The first goal is always important. You always want to build momentum and I think we fed off that.”
Dagnal’s linemate, Adam Alavi, added a second goal seven minutes later, when defenseman Chad Wyatt’s wrist shot from the blue line went off the leg pad of Lowe and sat idling in the crease. Alavi gathered the loose puck and backhanded it past the goalie for a 2-0 lead.
After the ensuing faceoff, Peters Township’s Brady Cochrane was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a hit from behind on Blackhawks defenseman Derek Lesnak. Bethel Park capitalized with the penalty winding down, when Jake Worcester gathered a loose puck in front of the net, kicked it to his stick and fired it under the leg pad of Peters Township goalie Brian Baker.
Baker stopped 41 shots to help Dagnal’s second goal stand as the game-winner.
“I’m speechless,” Baker said. “I can’t even describe how happy I am right now, especially with this group of guys. I got a little nervous during that third period, but I told myself to keep doing what you’re doing, you’re playing fine.”
Dagnal admitted to feeling butterflies in his stomach during the ride to the arena. Playing on the same ice as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can have that effect on a high school senior.
“You are out on the ice, and to think Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and some of the best players in the world play the game and skate on that same ice, it’s unbelievable,” Dagnal said. “It makes you think how amazing this really is.”
The third period opened with a strange penalty called against Peters Township when Bethel Park’s coaching staff pointed out Baker was using an illegal cage on his helmet. It led to a two-man advantage for the Blackhawks but the Indians did not flinch. Bethel Park outshot the Indians, 16-7, in the final period with the help of another two-man advantage, but Baker stifled all but one attempt.
Dagnal collected his second goal at the 12:51 mark when he collected a loose puck in front of the net and backhanded it past Lowe for the 3-1 lead. The Indians continued to bend but not break when killing five penalties during the third period. They allowed a goal with less than a minute to play to cut their lead to one.
Bethel Park continued to press, but Dagnal put the Blackhawks away with his empty-net goal with just 4.2 seconds remaining to seal the win.
The Indians will play La Salle, the winner of the Class AAA Flyers Cup in Philadelphia, Saturday at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena for the Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championship.
“I can’t even express how I feel right now,” Dagnal said.