CPIHL TIER 2 CHAMPIONSHIP
Teamwork pays for Comets, MT County teams face off in title clash BY KEVIN FREEMAN, Sports Writer,
Penn Manor's hockey team learned early in the season what it took to be successful.
After its first two games ended in ties, the Comets, with the players on the bench prodding those on the ice, started to play as a team instead of as individuals.
"Players on the bench would yell at (teammates) to pass the puck,'' said Penn Manor senior defenseman Kevin Reinhart. "We realized that passing the puck works.''
It's worked so well, in fact, that the Comets find themselves in the Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League's Tier 2 championship game, scheduled for 7 tonight at the Hersheypark Arena.
Manor's competition in the first CPIHL all-Lancaster title game will be Manheim Township, which, too, has certainly learned the value of playing as a team.
In order to play for the Viola Cup, playing as a team is essential.
Both teams boast 14-2-2 regular-season records. Penn Manor is unbeaten in the playoffs at 3-0 while Township is 3-1. The Blue Streaks battled back into the title game picture after their loss to Penn Manor by defeating Red Land, 6-4.
Tonight's game will be the rubber match between the two teams. Manheim Township won the lone regular-season battle, 8-5, but Penn Manor turned the tables in an earlier playoff round, winning 3-1.
"Prior to playing Township the first time, we hadn't had a loss,'' said Penn Manor coach Garth Bolin. "We went in confident and they took us by surprise a little bit. Once we took a step back and realized that they could play with us, the second time we played them we picked it up.''
Certainly the goaltender matchup will be a key to the game. The Comets' Owen Finefrock has the lowest goals-against average in Tier 2 in the playoffs at 2.33. He's allowed seven goals in three games.
Finefrock had a 3.17 GAA during the regular season, second only to Township's Brandon Davis, whose goals against was 2.83, best among goalies playing 16 games or more.
Davis had three shutouts during the regular season and Finefrock two.
The two teams possess plenty of firepower, too.
Comets' center Matt Gue is second among Tier 2 playoff scorers with nine goals, two of which came against the Blue Streaks. He and teammate Jason Green have 10 playoff points. Township's Erik Stager has four goals in the playoffs, including one against Penn Manor.
To win the game, Reinhart said the Comets have to play smart.
"We have to stay out of the box,'' he said. "First game against them, we had a lot of penalties and got caught up in all the retaliation calls. The next game, we stayed out of the box and took it to them right away, taking a lead, then played defense the rest of the time.''
The Blue Streaks will look to increase their scoring chances by taking shots from better angles. Last time, the Comets forced Township wide, making the saves a bit easier for Finefrock.
"We want to establish a clean, physical game and come out of the corners with pucks,'' Reinhart said.
A Lancaster team hasn't won a CPIHL title since Elizabethtown won a Tier 2 crown during the 2010-11 season. Other Lancaster County teams to win CPIHL titles in the 19-year history of the league include Ephrata (Tier 2, 2005-06), Manheim Township (2, 2004-05) and Lampeter-Strasburg (A, 2001-02). E-town also won the Commonwealth A title in 2000-01.