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MONROEVILLE - Bethel Park struggled in its opening game of the 2001-2002 regular season in a 4-1 win against McDowell. Playing without leading scorer Justin Glock looked like a prime opportunity for Penn Hills to take advantage of the two-time defending State Champion Blackhawks. Think again ! Bethel came out with a vengence in the first period as Jason McLean led the attack with two goals and Tim Hramika and Nick D'Alessandro added singles to give the Blackhawks a 4-0 lead just 6:36 into the game. Brandon Hanley added insult to injury as he made it 5-0 on a rebound goal late in the first period. Then the smothering defense, which allowed Penn Hills only 11 shots, a little high by Bethel standards and a second Hanley tally in the 3rd gave the Hawks a 6-0 victory and firm grip on its # 1 ranking. Penn Hills did improve its territory play in the third, but was no match for a hungry Bethel Park team. Delbert Joo got the shutout for the Hawks.
VALENCIA Mars and Quaker Valley were foes in the PIHL West Division last season and both were looking to make a move this season's Class A standings. Coach Joe Honzo's club return a good nucleus of experienced player, while Quaker Valley has a mix of returning talent plus a few foreign exchange players to fill out a promising squad for Coach Kevin Quinn. The Mars top line of Steve Meyers, Bobby Beckert and Bob Finney scorched the Quakers for five goals and led a 44-17 shot onslaught to give the Planets a 6-2 victory. The Quakers Dusan Katlovsky chipped in both goals in a losing effort for QV.
VALENCIA - Kittanning coach Jeff Smouse knew his opening game against Pine Richland will go a long way in judging where the Wildcats will sit in the AA North Division. George Reed's Pine Richland Rams are looking for their 3rd consecutive division title and have depth, speed and skill. Kittanning and Pine Richland was like a heavyweight fight in the first period as both teams threw a few jabs with no knockout punchs. Then Wildcat veteran Colt Hileman picked up a loose rebound and beat Dan Mills to give Kittanning a 1-0 lead. PR's Matt Krysa tied the game at 1-1 beating Adam Toy on the wrist shot. The game picked up physically in the third period as the Rams kept the territorial advantage and it paid off when Adam Fodor beat Toy through the 5-Hole to give PR the 2-1 lead. The Rams continued to pen up the Wildcats with great neutral zone play and looked to well on their way to win # 1 with under a minute to play. After a great save by Toy, Smouse called a timeout. Kittanning Brandon Beatty spotted a teammate behind the Ram defense and Shane Troup picked up a rebound and beat Mills with just 26 seconds left to tie the game. The teams played through OT and the Wildcats earned a big point, which could pay off toward the end of the season.
MONROEVILLE - Gator Coach Dennis Shannon must shiver when he thinks about the USC Panthers. Last Season, the Gators blew a 2-0 lead the Panthers only to lose 3-2, but that is not the game coach Shannon twitches about. The 2000 Penguin Cup Playoff triple overtime thriller (7-6 USC Victory) returned to the scene of the crime as both teams opened their seasons. The Gators came out with a furious pace and capitalized when Lucas Pepper banged home a rebound to give Gateway the 1-0 lead. The Gators ran into penalty trouble and Upper St Clair built momentum towards the second period and the Panthers capitalized when Brandon Burns trickler snuck past Dave Himes to knot the game at one apiece. The game took to another level with some great action and near misses as David Andrews of USC and Himes provided stellar goaltending. Gator captain Ken McCleary broke in around the defense and beat Andrews on the backkhander to give Gateway a 2-1 lead. Both teams traded power plays in the third and Gateway failed to secure a two goal advantage. USC's Adam Brindle picked up a rebound with 2 1/2 minutes left and lifted in over a fallen Himes to deadlocked the game at 2-2, which it remained through OT. USC outshot Gateway 39-31.
NEVILLE ISLAND - A friday night affair at the Island Sports Center featured a rematch of a second round Penguin Cup game which North Hills stunned Central Catholic to move on in the 2001 Playoffs. The Indians picked up where they left off last season to start the 2001-2002 campaign by bolting to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals by Derek Stein in the first period. The young Vikings were rattled and Russ Hefner made several key saves to keep a managable two goal deficit. In the second with the Vikings on the power play, Anthony Scolieri beat freshman goaltender Casey Dudt-Mulzzet in the five hole to cut the lead to 2-1. The young Vikings continued their onslaught in the third outshooting North Hills 15-3. The Indians had several key chances but could not exted the lead. Then with the goalie pulled and under a minute to play, Rob Donatucci buried a wrist shot upstairs glove side from the top of the circle through a screen to tie the game with just 31 seconds remaining. As the game moved into OT, the Indians earned a 5 on 3 power play, but the young Vikings show a ton of character and killed off the two man disadvantage.Some confusion left Central's John Chmiel in the penalty box for three minutes, but Central survived it and earned a point. For NH coach Jimmy Black, an opportunity missed as his squad heads into the loaded PIHL AAA South Division schedule, where every point will be critical. Central Catholic outshot North Hills 26-23.