Tak’s Take: PIHL Semifinals

Tak's Take: PIHL Semifinals

The top four teams from the AA division of the Penguins Cup will meet Monday and Tuesday night at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh to play for a spot in the PIHL finals.  The Greater Latrobe Wildcats are in contention for their fourth consecutive Penguins Cup championship.

The third-seeded IceCats are matched up against the second-seeded Bishop Canevin Crusaders in the PIHL semi-finals and will play in the Steel City on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM.  Although the Crusaders have a better seed due to a stronger regular season record, Latrobe was able to defeat Bishop Canevin in both of their previous meetings.  Both games were close, defensive battles; however the Latrobe’s defense, the best in the PIHL, was able to stifle the second-best offense in the league and hold the Crusaders to just one goal in the two meetings. 

Bishop Canevin is indeed dangerous and cannot be overlooked.  The Crusaders defeated top-seeded Peters Township in their only matchup of the year and scored eight goals against the Elizabeth Forward Warriors in their quarterfinal matchup last week.

However, the third matchup of the season between the Wildcats and the Crusaders should be more of the same.  The game should be a low-scoring defensive struggle and if it comes down to the better defense, Latrobe has the edge.  The IceCats had a strong defensive performance in their quarterfinal matchup against six-seeded West Allegheny.  Latrobe’s penalty kill proved to be the x-factor in their playoff win, limiting West Allegheny to only two power play goals in a game that saw Latrobe shorthanded for a large portion of the game.  The game was also turned into the Zack LaDuke show, when the senior forward scored all four of his team’s goals.

I expect the game to be defensive based and low scoring.  Latrobe has a better defense and a better goaltender than Bishop Canevin.  Although the team offense of Bishop Canevin is deeper than Latrobe’s, LaDuke should provide enough offensive firepower to push the IceCats past the Crusaders and into the Penguins Cup finals for the fourth straight year.  I am predicting an overtime thriller that sees the IceCats skate away victorious by a score of 2-1.

If the IceCats win their game against Bishop Canevin, Latrobe will meet the winner of the first semi-final matchup between the first seeded Peters Township Indians and the fourth seeded Chartiers Valley Colts.  Both Peters Township and Chartiers Valley gave the IceCats problems over the regular season; Latrobe compiled a combined 0-3 record against the Indians and the Colts, including one home loss. 

This should be another tight matchup, however I like the top team in the PIHL to be ousted from the postseason by Chartiers Valley.  In their only matchup of the season, Peters Township barely won against the Colts, needing overtime to do so.  The Indians have not had a tough game since a 3-2 win against Montour on January 10.  Meanwhile, Chartiers Valley came back from a 4-1 deficit in the third period of their quarterfinal game to win 5-4 in double overtime.  The Colts’ best scorer, Justin Sabilla, is on a roll and played a major part in the comeback, scoring the game-winner.  I feel that the Indians will crumble under the pressure of their first competitive game in two months and succumb to the Colts by a score of 4-2.

Look for the third matchup of the season between the Greater Latrobe IceCats and the Chartiers Valley Colts in the PIHL final for a trip to the state championship game.

            Check back soon for a semifinal recap and a look at the PIHL championship.