Late Magic Propels North Allegheny Past Mt. Lebanon
By JOE SAGER, PIHL Network (Photo of Joe Griffin, North Allegheny)
MT. LEBANON – North Allegheny displayed some magic Thursday night.
However, the Tigers saved their best trick for last.
Joe Griffin’s slapper from the point capped a three-goal rally in the third period as North Allegheny posted a 4-3 triumph over Mt. Lebanon at the Mt. Lebanon Ice Arena.
“Mt. Lebanon is a very good team and they will be a very tough team to beat. They played pretty stingy defense,” North Allegheny coach Jim Black said. “That’s a big one for us. That’ll bring the kids together a little bit more and definitely catapult us into the later part of the season.”
The Tigers’ win vaulted them into a first-place tie with the Blue Devils (12-4-1) atop the PIHL Section 2-AAA standings. In addition, North Allegheny (12-4-1) and Mt. Lebanon, which had its six-game winning streak snapped, remain tied for second in the overall Class AAA standings with 25 points.
“We just found a way to get it done. That’s been our team motto. It’s a great feeling,” Griffin said. “It was definitely a big-time win for us. It’s what we needed.”
Griffin and the Tigers got off to an inconspicuous start. Griffin was unable to play for the entire first period while his helmet was being repaired.
“Some screws were a little loose in it,” he said. “It might have worked to my advantage. I had fresh legs and everyone else was a little slower.”
With Griffin, NA’s leading scorer, not on the ice, Mt. Lebanon jumped to a 2-0 lead late in the period.
Trevor Nelson’s streaking wrister put the hosts on the scoreboard with 4:54 remaining in the period. The Blue Devils added to the advantage when James Phillips floated a puck into the net with 17.4 seconds left on the clock.
The Tigers struck back in the second period. Cody Black dove at a rebound and poked it into the goal for a power-play tally 5:08 into the frame.
However, Mt. Lebanon struck again when Tom Kang tapped in a Phillips pass for a 3-1 edge with 2:09 left in the period.
North Allegheny stormed back in the third period.
“Obviously, we didn’t have our best first period. With Joe Griffin having equipment troubles to start the game, that kind of threw us off a little bit. Mt. Lebanon came out ready to play,” Jim Black said. “The kids responded well in the third period and really had a good effort.”
Justin Leonard slid a rebound into a wide-open net to trim NA’s deficit to 3-2 just 4:56 into the third period. Griffin tied it with 7:02 to go when Jake Hubert slid a pass from behind the goal to Griffin at the top of the crease. He quickly swatted it into the net for a 3-all tie.
Just 46 seconds later, North Allegheny had a two-man advantage. And, the Tigers needed only 13 more seconds to convert. Stationed on the far wall at the blue line, Dalton Landman sent a pass across the ice. Harry Kramer, positioned in the middle of the zone, faked a slapshot. The puck moved to Griffin at the near boards and his slapper sailed into the goal for a 4-3 advantage with 6:03 to play.
“We called a timeout and drew up a play. I give the kids credit because they ran it exactly the way it was supposed to be done,” Jim Black said. “When you have everybody on the same page like that, that’s how you put pucks into the net. It was a full team effort and that’s what we were looking for in the third period.”
Griffin knew what was coming, but wasn’t sure the Tigers’ trick would fool the Blue Devils.
“I had my doubts, but it did work,” he said. “Dalton Landman passed it across and then Harry had the nice fake whiff there.”
North Allegheny withstood Mt. Lebanon’s furious charge late in the game and goaltender Matt Goda make several key stops in the final minute to seal the win.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday at home against Erie McDowell, while the Blue Devils battle Norwin next Thursday at home.