By Rick Woelfel
Sam Lipkin and Michael Casey combined for five goals as LaSalle defeated North Allegheny 6-3 Saturday afternoon to win the Class AAA Pennsylvania Cup at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center in Pittsburgh.
Daniel Sambuco scored a goal and added three assists as LaSalle won its sixth state championship, scoring three times in the third period to do it.
LaSalle’s top line of Lipkin, Casey, and Sambuco, the Explorers’ top line all season, accounted for just all six goals but four of the team’s five assists.
“The Casey, Lipkin, Sambuco line was clutch again,” said LaSalle coach Wally Muehlbronner.
Lipkin gave the Explorers (23-6) the lead just 20 seconds into the opening period on his team’s first shot of the game. Tyler Putnam tied the game for the Tigers 8:50 into the opening frame but Casey answered back just 28 seconds later to give LaSalle a 2-1 lead after one period.
Casey scored his second goal of the game at the 3:24 mark of the second period to give LaSalle a 3-1 lead but Aaron Miller scored twice for North Allegheny in a span of 2 minutes, 10 seconds to tie the game. His second goal came on a breakaway off a LaSalle turnover in the neutral zone to make it a 3-3 game with 1:40 left in the second period.
At the start of the third period, LaSalle picked up its intensity level. ““The start of the third period was key,” Muehlbronner said. “We came out hard and confident. We played a simple game in the third period. And (goaltender Aidan) McCabe was solid.”
Lipkin’s shorthanded goal at 7:39 of the period proved to be the game winner. It came while Sambuco was in the box serving a cross-checking penalty. The Tigers coughed up the puck behind their own net and Sambcuco was on hand to score on wraparound.
The sophomore completed his hat trick by scoring into an empty net with 1:07 left before Sambuco did the same thing with 18 seconds remaining.
“I’m very proud of the boys,” Muehlbronner said. “We battled hard the past three weeks (through the Flyers Cup tournament) and showed a lot of character when facing adversity.
“I’m very happy for all the players, especially our four seniors (Zach Baker, Brandon Leer, Sean Keaveney, Bryan Evans).
Notes: LaSalle’s previous state titles came in 1998, 2008, ’09, 2012, and 2015 …LaSalle’s six Class AAA Titles put it second on the all-time list in that class, behind Meadville, which has won seven … The Tigers won a state title of their own in 2007 … In Saturday’s other Pennsylvania Cup games, West Chester Rustin won a record sixth consecutive Class A title 11-3 over Montour. Pine Richland defeated Downingtown East 3-0 in the Class AA final.
LaSalle 2 1 3—6
North Allegheny 1 2 0—3
First-period goals: Sam Lipkin (L) from Daniel Sambuco, :20; Tyler Putnam (NA) unassisted, 8:30; Michael Casey (L) from Lipkin and Sambuco, 8:58.
Second-period goals: Casey (L) from Sambuco, 3:24; Aaron Miller (NA) from Haden Shimko, 13:10; Miller (NA) from Tyler Lamark and Luke Turkovich, 15:20.
Third-period goals: Lipkin (L) unassisted, 7:39, (sh); Lipkin (L) from Zach Baker, 15:53 (en); Sambuco (L) unassisted, 16:42 (en).
Shots: LaSalle 46, North Allegheny 34; saves: Aidan McCabe (L) 31, Rich Karapandi (NA) 40.
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