DELMONT — Connellsville coach Ray Brown told his team between the second and third periods in a 2-2 game the team that scored next would be a huge goal.
Unfortunately for the Falcons, the next — and deciding — goal was scored by Bishop Canevin’s Ty Serakowski early in the final period to lift the Crusaders to a 3-2 win over Connellsville in the PIHL Class B quarterfinals.
Serakowski managed to poke the puck past Connellsville goalie Alex Mitchell after carrying the puck from behind the net and slipping inside the post at 1:37 of the third period.
“I told them (between the second and third periods) it’s a new game. Whichever team got it would be a huge goal,” said Brown.
Connellsville pulled Mitchell with 1:10 left in the game and mounted good pressure with the empty net in the final 60 seconds, but was unable to score the tying goal.
Connellsville battled back from a two-goal deficit with a pair of goals in the second period.
Lukas Joseph used his speed to get behind the Bishop Canevin defense to the right of goalie Adam Serakowski. Joseph chipped the puck past Serakowski to draw the Falcons to 2-1 just 2:34 into the period. Parker Firestone assisted on the goal.
Max Sokol tied the game about 10 minutes later when he gathered in a pass from Clay Sipple and broke into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1. Sokol’s shot beat Adam Serakowski to tie the game at 12:48.
“We had some legs. We played our game, our system,” Brown said of the effort in the second period.
Connellsville had a chance to tie the game between the goals with a power play, but not only did the Falcons lose the man advantage, they also lost a defenseman and had to fend off a major penalty.
Connellsville went on the power play at 5:54 after a roughing call.
The Falcons’ Dylan Brooks carried the puck across the blue line and followed the puck to the boards behind Adam Serakowski. The defenseman was initially pinned to the boards by the Crusaders’ Michael Parzynski III in the struggle for control of the puck tangled in their skates.
Parzynski elevated the physicality on the play, apparently catching Brooks across the mask in such a manner it bloodied the defenseman’s lip.
Brooks reacted to the play, throwing punches at Parzynski. Brooks was tagged with a fighting major and game misconduct at 6:58 of the second period.
To their credit, the Falcons’ special teams fended off the nearly four-minute penalty without allowing a goal.
“That took a good defenseman away. We had to shuffle the lineup (the defense),” explained Brown.
Bishop Canevin had the best of the territorial advantage in the first period with 15 shots on Mitchell, as compared to just five by Connellsville.
Two of those shots found their way behind Mitchell. Parzynski scored the first goal of the game after he gathered a loose puck in the slot and tucked it under the crossbar at 8:28.
Connellsville only had one penalty in the first period, and it led to the Crusaders’ second goal.
Maddison Grimm took a hooking penalty in a scrum in front of Mitchell with 37 seconds remaining in the period. Connellsville almost escaped the period, but the Crusaders’ Turner Anselm collected a rebound and deposited the puck past Mitchell with 0.0 on the clock, just a tick before the horn blared.
“These were two evenly-matched teams. The difference would be the team with the most mistakes. We had bad positioning in the game,” said Brown.
Connellsville was outshot 35-18 with Mitchell keeping the Falcons in the game with 32 saves. Adam Serakowski finished with 16 saves.
Bishop Canevin (12-4-0-2) advances to play Ringgold in the semifinals on April 15 at RMU Island Sports Center at 7:05 p.m. The Rams (17-0-0-1) advanced with a 5-2 win over Avonworth.
The Falcons close the season with an overall record of 9-6-0-3.
“The kids played well. It would’ve been nice to get one more game,” said Brown. “We have seven seniors. It’s tough for them.”
Though the Connellsville varsity avoided any Covid issues on the team, the Falcons did have to deal with problems created by virus issues with Avonworth and the shutdown of West Virginia sports, delaying Morgantown’s season to the beginning of March. They also had to deal with rink problems.
“We had games cancelled. Then, we had rink issues, too. We showed up at our rink one game and ended up playing in Mt. Lebanon,” said Brown. “But, we battled through it. It was a good season, all in all.”