Seneca Valley goalkeeper Dylan Sloat, center, is surrounded by teammates after the Raiders’ 5-4 PIHL semifinal double-overtime loss to Central Catholic at the RMU Island Sports Center Wednesday night.
NEVILLE TWP — On paper, Central Catholic’s hockey team was better than Seneca Valley. It took the Vikings over 64 minutes to prove it on the ice. Ryan Kingerski’s power-play goal with 3:09 gone in the second overtime lifted Central to a 5-4 win over the Raiders in the PIHL Class AAA semifinals at Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center Wednesday night. The top-seeded Vikings (18-4) had defeated SV twice during the regular season by scores of 3-1 and 4-3. “This loss doesn’t define us,” said Raider coach Anthony Raco. “The guys in this locker room earned a lot of respect from everyone who watched this game.” Both goalies — Seneca Valley’s Dylan Sloat and Central’s Nathaniel Cava — had the heat turned up on them in the first 10-minute overtime, making eight and nine saves, respectively. Central was awarded a power play with 7:45 remaining in the second overtime. Kingerski’s winning wrist shot from the left circle was his team’s second shot on goal during its man-advantage. Central coach Bill Connelly had called a timeout prior to the start of the power play. “We told our guys to settle down,” he said. “We didn’t have to score in four or five seconds, it was a two-minute power play. We needed to be patient and wait for a good look.” The Vikings sported four players with at least 10 goals coming in, while the Raiders had no player with more than eight scores. But SV (11-9-2) didn’t play like the underdog early on as goals from Ryan Sheils and Chris Lipnicky put the Raiders up 2-0 early in the second period. “We were confident coming in,” said Raider defenseman Nick Raible. “We knew we had to play with speed and play within our system. We knew how to beat them, but we just came up short.” Facing the early deficit, the Vikings didn’t panic. “We stayed with what got us here,” said Connelly. “These guys have done a lot to get to this point and it was just a matter of putting it all together.” Brian Freyvogel got the Vikings on the board with a goal with just over seven minutes remaining in the second period. SV’s execution of Raco’s gameplan had delivered a 2-1 lead after 34 minutes of play, during which the Raiders out-shot the Vikings 19-8. “We wanted to be responsible with the puck and wear them down,” Raco said. “I think we did that in the first two periods.” But the pace established by the Raiders crumbled in the third period beginning with Jake Tepe’s tally that tied the game at 2-2 just 43 seconds in. “Central Catholic is a solid team and we expected them to get their goals tonight, but we didn’t want them to get a goal early in that third period and they did,” said Raco. “That goal got them going.” Tepe’s goal sparked a scoring frenzy as both teams combined for five goals in a span of just four minutes, 34 seconds. SV’s Noah Watkiss curbed Central’s momentum when he scored just 70 seconds after Tepe’s score and the Raiders once again had the advantage. Central, however, answered with scores from Ethan Farber and Kingerski just 45 seconds apart, giving Central its first lead at 4-3. Zach Broskey pulled SV even when he scored with 11:43 left in regulation. The teams then played nearly 25 minutes of scoreless hockey before Kingerski’s game-winner. Sloat made 30 saves while Cava stopped 33 shots. “It’s unfortunate that Dylan was on the losing side tonight,” said Raco. “I thought he out-played their goalie.”