NEVILLE TWP — Seneca Valley’s hockey team proved adept at coming from behind Thursday night.
But the Raiders felt much better about things once they got the lead.
Tyler Draper scored on an assist from Giovanni Sarachine with 8:16 left in the third period of Thursday’s PIHL Class AAA semifinal. The tally lifted the Raiders to a 3-2 victory over Cathedral Prep at Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center and sets up a showdown with top-seeded Peters Township in Tuesday’s championship game.
“I’ve been part of this (SV’s) association for 10 years,” said SV coach Anthony Raco. “I think some people wrote us off this season because we lost some guys from last year. To be going to the final, it feels great.”
The Raiders and Ramblers traded 3-1 decisions during the regular season.
“They play great defense and their goals-against average is the best in the league,” Prep coach Alex Luddy said of SV. “We wanted to make sure we put enough shots on him (SV goalie Logan Johnson).”
While Luddy’s concerns were centered more around his own offense, SV’s attack snuck in the back door.
No Raider player has scored more than 10 goals this season, but SV (14-6) has a bunch capable of scoring the big goal, Draper included. His deciding tally was his eighth goal of the season.
“Giovanni (Sarachine) was in the corner with the puck and I saw their defenseman stumble. I just called for the puck in the slot,” Draper said.
“We have a lot of guys who can do the job on both offense and defense. I think that’s better than relying on just a couple of players.”
SV’s Noah Watkiss scored late in the second period to tie the game at 1-1, but 52 seconds later, Prep (13-7) took the lead right back when Jacob Kruszewski found the net and the Raiders trailed 2-1 with 17 minutes to play.
Sarachine scored SV’s second goal 2:12 into the final period.
“Any player can win a hockey game,” said Raco. “That’s the mentality I want this team to have.”
Johnson certainly did his part, stopping 24 of 26 shots. The first goal he surrendered — to Prep’s Jacob Emerson midway through the first period — came on a breakaway. Johnson later denied the Ramblers on two other breakaway attempts.
“We almost gave up a fourth breakaway,” said Raco. “We played pretty irresponsible with the puck for the first period and a half. That’s not us. We want to play good defense in front of Logan.”