D1 and D2 title games are now set.
North Allegheny Defeats Shady Side in One Goal Game for Second Time This Season
Shady Side jumped out to a 5-2 lead late in the 2nd quarter thanks to an ethereal performance by junior attackman Max Jaffe who scored 3 goals and dished out an assist in the opening half.
Watch in 1080p HD. SSA highlights only.
SSA was able to build a 5-2 lead despite no goals from Robby Woodings and limited face off success. Woodings, in fact, had two violations in the first half. The titanic match up between a West Point recruit (Woodings) and Zach Smith, an Arizona State wrestling recruit, never came to pass as Smith won nearly all of his draws.
The 5-2 lead convinced junior goalie Blake Goodman (Richmond) that he should show off his Blaze Riorden impression. Goodman approached the midline then hit the jets as the crowd came to their feet, at least members of the crowd who had seen the Albany goalie score the week before. Goodman, who might have been able to carry the ball in a few more steps, was denied high to high. He managed to return to his crease in ample time as a result of an NA turnover in the clear.
NA would get a goal back to make the score 5-3 before the half. And, the feeling was that if NA scored the first goal of the second half they would win the game. North Allegheny senior attackman Kyle Rullan (Bellarmine), who scored the goal at the end of the first half, scored the first goal of the second half.
Due to an injury to senior defender Connor Jones (Connecticut College), Shady Side bumped junior LSM Doc Szlachetka (Air Force) down to close defense. Szlachetka drew the Rullan assignment. It was an interesting battle all evening. Rullan is very comfortable with contact. Szlachetka remained patient on ball knowing the Tiger offense primarily went through the attackman’s hands. Not entirely sure if Szlachetka covered Rullan in their regular season match up, a 4-3 NA victory, but he seemed more than up to the challenge, evening barking at a teammate once or twice when they slid to him.
The Tigers would eventually erase the 5-2 1st half deficit thanks to a 5-2 run of their own. NA decided to shut Woodings with a short stick which really stifled the Indian offense. Rullan tied the game with 6:51 remaining in the fourth. The teams traded timeouts and turnovers until the third overtime. A man up turnover by Shady Side resulted in a strange unsettled situation after the NA clear. Predictably, Rullan was carrying the ball. The SSA defense sent a double, but failed to cover up the crease. Rullan, who always has head up and never seems concerned with the on ball defender, found an open Teddy Egnaczyk for the win.
North Allegheny plays Mt. Lebanon in the D1 Finals. NA topped Mt. Lebanon in overtime way back on March 23rd thanks to this Kyle Rullan strike. Mt. Lebanon did play that game without senior attackman Brian Kelly (Mercer). A sophomore attackman chipped in a few goals in relief. Several Blue Devils including Kelly were in attendance last night.
In three losses this year, North Allegheny fell to an undefeated Hudson (OH) 11-8, Sewickley beat them at Sewickley 12-10 (North Allegheny would beat them at home 11-3 ten days later), and their senior back ups primarily played in a 12-10 loss to playoff participant Peters Township. North Allegheny could very well be 18-0 entering the WPIAL finals. What makes them so hard to play against is everyone of their kids is athletic and everyone scraps for the full game. A nameless, faceless Tiger middie is going to win a 50/50 ground ball in the first quarter. No one is going to think anything of it in the moment until they beat you in overtime. Maybe that groundball lead to a goal or maybe it didn’t, but either way it’s a play North Allegheny makes time and time again. Only this year, it’s given them an opportunity to play in the WPIAL finals.
Canon Mac Advances to D2 Finals
In the D2 semifinal, Mars initially looked comfortable against the Canon Mac zone defense, but the comfort level did not translate into scoring and they quickly found themselves behind. Canon Mac raced out to a 5-1 lead before Mars steadied themselves, thanks in large part to falling into a zone defense of their own and eventually canning some shots.
Credit to the Mars staff and players for taking that first punch. Canon Mac was on pace for recording their fifth 20 goal in a row. Canon Mac showed man to man defense once all game. It was out of a timeout and they shut off adjacent. The dodger juked and blew by his defender. The Canon Mac defense converged on the dodger and took a penalty. Mars would score on the man up to make the score 6-4 before the end of the half. Could have been one of those Seattle Seahawks moments where the coaching staff out thinks themselves. No matter. The Big Macs scored the first two goals of the second half.
Mars cut the lead to 8-7 in the third quarter but that’s as close they would get. Similar to the D1 game, the last goal of the 4th quarter was scored with 5:49 remaining. Neither team could muster another tally.
- Canon Mac was lead by lefty senior attackman Ben Ward who tallied at least five goals on the evening.
- The Mars defense ultimately slowed down the CM attack but since CM also runs a 33 zone it wasn’t anything new for the Big Macs. CM attackmen looked very comfortable throwing box fakes and pulling the trigger from the wings.
- Mars star Blake Thompson did not get onto the board until the third quarter.
- Canon Mac plays Hampton in the D2 WPIAL finals after Hampton dispatched Indiana and Quaker Valley to reach the finals. A Hampton jacket was spotted in the stands last night.
- Hampton and Canon Mac did not play each other in the regular season. Noteworthy common opponents include Peters, Mars, and Quaker Valley. Hampton went 1-2 against those teams. Canon Mac went 2-1.
How is Canon Mac this good? It’s a fair question if you haven’t seen them in person against other D2 competition. The team was 15-1 entering the semifinals having only lost to D1 Peters Township 9-1 at the end of March. Since then, they’ve rattled off twelve straight wins, including a four game stretch in which they scored 20+ goals per game. While a 15-1 record is impressive, success isn’t new to the Big Macs. They’ve had 10+ win seasons every year since 2012. How have they done it this year?
- Multi faceted offense Ben Ward is the unquestioned leader of the Canon Mac offense, but they have other weapons who can sting a corner should you pay too much attention to him. The Mars zone defense did slow down CM in the second half. Would be interesting to see what shutting off Ward would do for their 6v6 production.
- Bend don’t break defense Canon Mac does not have the best goalie in Division 2, but they do two things to protect him. First, they run a passive 33 zone defense that doesn’t extend beyond 15 yards. Some very large defenseman protect the interior. And, the goalie himself is a large fellow who eats up shots. You have to have a few things to have success against a zone. One, an understanding how to beat a zone defense. Two, be able to string four passes together after overloading the zone. Three, someone who can finish shots either inside or a stretch shooter. Most Pittsburgh D1 offenses are not capable of beating zone defenses. Not a surprise that Pittsburgh D2 offenses would struggle as well. Canon Mac has only given up double digit goals twice and they’ve pitched two shut outs.
- Face off success Best defensive strategy? Possess the ball. Canon Mac face off play is elite for D2. They’re able to sustain runs and keep the ball away from troubling their defense. Don’t remember Mars winning two face offs in a row.
Nothing that other dominant teams don’t do.
- Would love the 2016 playoff schedule to feature a D2 game at 6pm and a D1 game at 8pm on consecutive nights. Happened this year because of the weather cancellation. Just fun to be able to see the other guys play. It gives an extra day of rest and preparation to the teams that play on the first day. Who cares.
- Weather app said 54 degrees at the conclusion of the NA SSA game. Fine conditions for athletes to play in especially given the extra three periods. Some fans who were not dressed warmly enough were forced to buy a $17 WPIAL championship long sleeve shirt,
- If you wear Flow Society to shorts to a game, you should be charged extra.