BP ices USC in PIHL playoffs
Ryan Kusmira slips the puck past Michael Ambrose for Bethel Park’s second goal and the game-winner in a 5-1 victory over Upper St. Clair in the PIHL playoffs.
Bethel Park head coach Jim McVay was apprehensive about playing Upper St. Clair in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL) playoffs for plenty of reasons.
One, the Panthers had just registered a thrilling victory, 3-2, against Shaler the day before. Two, his former player, Dennis Kiersten, coached USC. Three, his nephew, plays for the Panthers.
Those are all very good reasons McVay says. “But, I don’t like to play St. Clair and beat them mainly because that’s my alma mater and that’s my community.”
When McVay played for the Panthers in the 1980s, they won a state championship.
With Bethel Park’s 5-1 triumph over USC at Bladerunners on March 6, the Hawks commenced their quest for their own state title. With the win, the Hawks advanced to the PIHL semifinals set for March 13 at the RMU Island Sports Center.
The finals are scheduled for March 20 at the Consol Energy Center and the state finals will be played March 23.
Beating USC was an achievement for the Hawks because BP had beaten the Panthers twice during the regular season. Plus, USC was coming off the win against the Titans, in which Connor Ackerman registered two, third-period tallies, including the game-winner with 41 seconds to play. Matt Boyd had USC’s initial goal in the game.
“USC is a talented team,” said McVay. “Ackerman and (Austin) Cassidy are two of the best forwards in the league.
“I sat in the stands and watched that (Shaler) game and kept thinking about what my dad had always said whenever the Steelers and the Browns played in the 70s and had to face each other in the playoffs. It’s tough to beat a good team three times.
Though BP jumped ahead, 1-0, on a power-play goal by Austin Jameyson with assists from Derek Lesnak and Daniel Yost, USC knotted the game on Cassidy’s tally with 5:33 to play in the first frame. Patrick Lydon assisted.
“USC had all the momentum coming into this game and we hadn’t played in a while so I was worried,” said McVay. “When they tied it 1-1, I was really concerned.”
With 1:21 remaining in the first period, Ryan Kusmira allayed McVay’s fears. He scored the go-ahead and game-winning goal off an assist from Kurt Schmidt.
BP scored twice in the second stanza on the power play. Jameyson notched his second score near the start of the period and Brody Taylor tacked on a goal at 12:50. Jake Salak and Lesnak assisted Taylor’s tally.
Of Jameyson’s two-goal performance McVay said, “I am happy for him. He played real well. He’s a senior and one of our leaders. He has had an up-and-down year but fortunately for us, he’s up in the playoffs.”
Chris Wandel put BP up by four goals in the final frame. On yet another power play, Dylan Jones and Daniel Yost assisted.
In other action March 6, North Allegheny upended Canon-McMillan, 2-1, in overtime. Cody Black scored the gamewinner for the Tigers. Austin Tonkovich scored the lone goal for the Big Macs. Shawn Baird has the other goal for NA.
Bishop Canevin dispatched Plum, 5-2
BP ices USC in PIHL playoffs
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