STATE COLLEGE – During the closing minutes of Saturday’s ennsylvania Cup Class AAA championship game between Peters Township and La Salle College High School, the Indians led by one goal but were playing a man down.
After Peters Township (20-4) killed one penalty, another was called six seconds later and with 1:35 remaining in regulation, the Explorers called a timeout. Peters Township head coach Rick Tingle addressed his team, but senior defenseman Josef Kittelberger could not recall what was said. He was too busy guzzling water after a lengthy shorthanded shift. After another penalty against Peters Township, he was preparing for another.
The Indians did not allow a shot in the final 90 seconds and Kittelberger’s goal five minutes into the second period would stand as the game-winner as Peters Township defeated La Salle, 2-1, to claim its first state championship since 2005.
Kittelberger, the team captain, was the first to touch the championship trophy at center ice. It is Peters Township’s first state title since moving to Class AAA three years ago.
“It feels like my feet haven’t hit the ground yet,” Kittelberger said. “It’s unbelievable. It feels like I stepped right where I should be. We needed (a goal) and I got one.”
After an up-and-down first period, the Indians took control in the second, outshooting La Salle, 5-0, in the first three minutes and drawing a penalty less than a minute in. But they could not capitalize until the fifth minute when Kittelberger’s wrist shot from the blue line went over the shoulder of Explorers’ goalie Harrison Feeney to give Peters Township the 2-1 lead.
“Joe is by far the captain of the whole team; not just the defense,” Tingle said. “He’s been into preparing this season as much as the coaches are. He has been there supporting us the whole way.”
Peters Township took four penalties in the game’s final 17 minutes and the result was an 11-4 shot advantage for La Salle (19-10-2) in the third period. The difference was the play of Indians senior goalie Brian Baker. For the second-straight game, Baker made some impressive saves – finishing with 31 – to lead his team.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better,” Baker said. “I’m speechless.”
The Indians scored first when Samuel Barnes gathered a loose puck behind the net and found Adam Alavi open in the slot, where he fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Feeney for a 1-0 lead. It was the first lead of the day for a PIHL team in the three Pennsylvania Cup games, and it only lasted for three minutes.
Explorers senior forward Andrew Romano hit teammate Kevin Charyszyn with a lead pass, leaving him one-on-one with an opposing defender. Charyszyn raced up the wall and found room in the faceoff circle where he beat Baker to tie the game at one, but it was their only goal of the game.
With the goalie pulled in the final minute, the Indians controlled possession and on the advice of Tingle, fired cross-ice shots at the open net. Barnes grabbed a puck in his own end with less than 30 seconds remaining and shot it down ice where it hit the post. Tingle was looking at the clock when he heard his assistant coaches gasp. But when the horn rang, his team’s goal following last year’s PIHL title game was accomplished: a state championship.
“I’m really proud of a couple of our guys,” Tingle said. “I’m absolutely pleased with the whole crew.”