Siak, Worcester lead BP into PIHL semifinals
Behind the two-goal efforts of Christian Siak and Jake Worcester, Bethel Park defeated State College, 4-1, in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League Class AAA playoffs.
The Black Hawks (18-3) play Pine-Richland (13-8-1) at 6:45 p.m. March 12 at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center for the right to advance to the Penguins Cup final set for March 17 at the Consol Energy Center.
While the Hawks are the top seed in the tournament, they are wary of the Rams, who are fresh off a 4-2 win against Butler. For starters, Pine-Richland features Kyle Cunningham. Though a defender, he has scored nine goals and 14 assists during the regular season. He scored two goals and garnered three assists against the Golden Tornado.
In Cunningham, said BP head coach Jim McVay, Pine Richalnd “has one of the best defensemen in the league.” McVay also added of the Rams, “they have very solid goal tending and great scoring.”
In addition to Nicholas Matelan (24 goals, 19 assists), Ryan Cole (16 goals, 20 assists) and Matthew Cole (13 goals, 8 assists), the Rams also feature Isaac Stephan and Ben Stauffer in the nets, not to mention Mike Bagnato on the bench. Bagnato coached McVay when he played hockey for the Amateur Penguins. Plus, McVay has coached Bagnato’s sons in travel hockey.
“For me,” McVay said of the game, “it’s going to be emotionally tough. To play a coach who coached you and who is a great friend is tough.”
McVay and his Hawks, however, are used to tough tests. Many of them remember last year’s disappointing finish, a loss to North Allegheny, in this same round of competition.
“All the players on that team remember [that semifinal loss],” McVay said, “but I think more it is a new team and they need to find the drive within themselves to win for each other this year.”
In their first playoff win against State College, the Hawks found that drive as they avenged their regular season, 2-1, overtime loss to the Little Lions.
“They play hard. Plus,” McVay added of the Little Lions, “they were one of the most physical and toughest teams that we’ve played.”
The Hawks didn’t wait long to demonstrate their dominance over the Little Lions as Worcester slipped the puck past Chris Rosselot at 9:10 of the first period. Derek Lesnak assisted.
At 9:32 of the second stanza, Siak scored off the power play, providing the Hawks a 2-0 edge and eventually the game-winning goal. Lesnak and Worcester assisted the tally.
Though Lucas Michael narrowed the gap, 2-1, at 14:18, the Siak-Lesnak-Worcester unit combined for a score 57 seconds into the third period to put the brakes on the Little Lions. With less than one minute to play, Worcester iced State College with a short-handed, empty-netter.
“They all played well,” McVay said of his team, but noted that Siak-Lesnak-Worcester were together for only one shift.
“Christian and Jake,” he added of their goals. “Those were great individual efforts. Christian’s shots both were amazing.”
Siak and Worcester have been amazing throughout the season. Siak leads the team with 31 goals coupled with 13 assists. Worcester has 13 goals and seven assists. Additionally, Lesnak leads with 26 assists to go along with 12 tallies.
Impressive in the win against State College was William ‘Tre’ Lowe. In the nets, he saved 17 of the 18 shots he faced.
While pleased with how his Hawks vanquished the 10th seed in the tournament, McVay warns BP cannot rest of its laurels.
“We are playing well,” he said, “but if we rest on the past, that is not good at all. We need to make our next game our best.
“We need to control their scoring, play great defense and we need to solve their goaltender.”