Meadville Bulldog Invitational: My Site News: 2006 Meadville Bulldog Invitational - Semi-Finals

Monday, January 7
2006 Meadville Bulldog Invitational - Semi-Finals
Mt Lebanon
Mt Lebanon
2006 Meadville Bulldog Invitational - Semi-Finals
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2006 Meadville Bulldog Invitational ~ Semi-Finals

Mt Lebanon 3 Meadville 1

       The House of Chills on a Sunday morning for the Bulldog Invitational and it wouldn’t have been complete without the Bulldogs. We were nearly watching a matchup of two Western Pennsylvania Hockey powers, but not Meadville, as Mt Lebanon and Central Catholic appeared headed for a rematch of an earlier season game yesterday afternoon after the Vikings rallied to tie the Bulldogs in the waning moments 4-4. Sylvania Northview took care of all five points and Central Catholic setting the stage for the Bulldogs to defeat Bowling Green and edge out the Vikings on the tiebreakers to gain a spot opposite Mt Lebanon in the semis.

       For Dawg head coach Jamie Plunkett not the ultimate scenario for the Bulldogs, but I am sure he will take it. An opportunity to face Mt Lebanon, even though this is January, is a good barometer for the 5-2 setback the Blue Devils handed Meadville in early November. The Bulldogs will need to develop a little better consistency come March to make a run and there’s no better place to get started than against the # 1 ranked team in the State of Pennsylvania. There is no question that at this point of the season, Meadville, along with defending State Champions Bethel Park and 2005 Penguins Cup finalist North Allegheny expect to work toward a final 4 berth, but the question is will any of them be able to challenge Mt Lebanon come March. After what Bethel did a year ago knocking off the North Allegheny Tigers [who gave up just one goal in the entire playoffs], anything is possible, but the Blue Devils look pretty strong and the final pieces of the puzzle are falling into place nicely for what needs to happen to erase a 30 year drought.

       Mt Lebanon and for this weekend and this tournament we’ll call them Mt Lebo 66 as no Murovich, nor Mandic, nor Ferguson, nor Root, nor McDermott in attendance. In fact, coach Paul Taibi tried to summon sound Junior Varsity players for a little depth, but would have to settle for the 13 players who have carried the Blue Devils into the Semis.
After watching Mt Lebanon yesterday tie a very good LaSalle team and then throttle Class AA power Thomas Jefferson, a new appreciation for how far the players you don’t read about who will be an important component in the ultimate goal is being developed who we will call Mt Lebo 66 as are preparing themselves for when the other 1/3 of the team returns from AAA tournaments and injury to start the run at the prize that has eluded Mt Lebanon since 1976, and more recently in 2004 when the Blue Devils fell 5 minutes or so shy of a State Championship. The downhill climb for the Blue and Gold will begin as we are only seven weeks shy of the beginning of the march toward April 8th and the 2006 Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championships.

       At 12:03 of the opening period, Chris Learn’s slapshot found its way through traffic and Matt Vaughn to giving the road team Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. With 1:11 remaining in the opening period, the Blue Devils tied the game as Jon Wilen beat Brian Danczak from right in front.

       At 7:46 of the second period, Mt Lebanon went on the power play as Mt Lebo 66 a/k/a the 3rd unit in the arsenal continued to hone its skills for the upcoming playoffs, but was unable to score. Meadville went on the power play at 5:55 to take their shot at capturing the lead. Excellent penalty killing by both clubs kept the score at one apiece.   

      Mt Lebanon went on the power play to start the third period and with 13:42 remaining in regulation, the big stick for the Blue Devils Matt Bartkowski unleashed a wicked slapshot past Brian Danczak to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead. Just 28 seconds later, at 13:18 Ben Rascoe found a loose puck and deposited into the net for Mt Lebo 66 and more importantly a 3-1 lead. Mt Lebanon clamped down on the Bulldogs defensively and Matt Vaughn shut the door the rest of the way as Mt Lebo 66 moves on to the championship with a 3-1 victory limiting the Bulldogs to 18 shots to the Blue Devils 28

LaSalle 2 Sylvania Northview 1.

         LaSalle is locked in a four way battle for Flyers Cup supremacy with 5-time defending champions Malvern Prep, 2005 finalist Germantown Academy and upstart Cardinal O’Hara. The Explorers, along with Malvern and GA have gone out and strengthened their schedule year in and year out with strong teams from New York, New Jersey, Ohio and Western Pennsylvania to prepare for the playoffs. LaSalle College under Wally Muehlbronner, now in his 9th year enjoys the annual trip to Meadville, not only for the success his team has had competing for the Bulldog Invitational Championship, which they captured a year ago, but to get a look at a portion of the best of the West. The Explorers played to a 0-0 tie with Mt Lebanon in the preliminary round and that is on the heels of defeating the Blue Devils for the championship a year ago in 2005.

       Sylvania Northview has been a staple in the Bulldog Invitational for much of the ten-year run of the mid-January event. James Cooper’s team has enjoyed an excellent season in the Northwest Ohio Conference and is many people’s pick to unseat Cleveland St Edwards as the Ohio State Champions in March. The Wildcats feature several super scorers in Alden Hirshfeld and Adam Thangsiu, who have not disappointed in the 2006 Bulldog Invitational as Northview has defeated Meadville, Central Catholic and rival Bowling Green for the only perfect record in the tournament. The Cats had a nice compliment of size, speed and skill, which would be tested by a battled tested LaSalle team for the right to face Mt Lebanon, who bounced host Meadville in the early semi-final.

         At 14:22 on the power play the Explorers struck as Ross Denczi scored on a quick rebound for a 1-0 lead. The teams battled to a hard fought and end to action, which settled into a goaltending dual between Sylvania’s Craig Trego and LaSalle’s Dan Pyne.
The Wildcat’s were finally able to solve LaSalle as Alden Hirshfeld scored his 7th goal of the tournament to knot the game a one apiece as we headed to the ice cut.

         On to the third period and the game continued to take shape as LaSalle continued to make Northview work at their level. With 3:38 remaining, Tom Minton’s wrist shot from the left circle found its way through the 5 hole of Craig Trego to give the Explorers a 2-1 lead. LaSalle would hold on to move on to the finals to face Mt Lebanon in a rematch of the 2005 Championship. Shots were 29-14 in favor of Sylvania Northview.