HERSHEY — Cedar Crest's Central Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey team had been on thin ice since dropping its playoff opener to Central York in a shootout. But the Falcons, with players from Cedar Crest, Lebanon, Lebanon Catholic and Elco fought their way back through the double-elimination tournament, rattling off four straight straight wins that included a 5-2 victory over West Shore Friday to capture the Viola Cup at historic Hersheypark Arena.
"We had a bunch of guys who would just fight all season," said Cedar Crest coach Kerry Hartman, whose program captured its second CPIHL title in three years. "They're a good bunch of kids. They never gave up on themselves."
Falcons lift the Viola Cup. pic.twitter.com/ngCfPg3Q3i— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) February 29, 2020
After weathering early pressure Friday, the Falcons (18-5-0-0) soared to a 3-0 lead. Elco's Anthony Long opened the scoring with 1:18 remaining in the first period, snapping a shot low to the glove side of West Shore goaltender Alex Ringling (20 saves). Isaac Long beat the first-period buzzer, burying a rebound on a scramble in front, and Lebanon's Todd Griffiths tacked on a goal with a shot under the near-side crossbar 23 seconds into the second period.
GOAL, Cedar Crest. The Falcons get a keep at the blue line, and Elco's Anthony Long walks it in and tucks a shot in low glove side. Falcons lead West Shore 1-0 w/ 1:18 left in the first period. pic.twitter.com/3vmKK0ELJn— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) February 28, 2020
"We had to have the mindset that we were crawling uphill the whole game," said West Shore coach Chris Moore, "and their goalie didn't let us get all the way to the top."
That goalie, Lebanon Catholic's Nolan Harner, turned away 38 shots. West Shore (17-4-0-0) managed to solve him twice in a span of 65 seconds — with a Tanner Pressley tip-in power play goal followed by a Nolan Zortman breakaway finish — to cut the Cedar Crest lead to 3-2.
"Even after West Shore got those two goals," Hartman said, "they never doubted. They were on the bench, chirping at each other, saying, 'Let's go. We got this.'"
GOAL, West Shore. Tanner Pressley tips in a power play point shot from Aidan Young. It cuts the Cedar Crest lead to 3-1 with 5:01 left in the second period. pic.twitter.com/5PnSOfolqF— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) February 29, 2020
From there, the Falcons never buckled. They killed off a West Shore power play that included 32 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage. Harner anchored the penalty kill and turned away nine total shots in the third period.
"Sometimes in a single game, the goalie is the best player on the ice," Moore said. "They can steal games. I felt like he was the difference."
Falcons kill off the penalty thanks to some timely saves from Nolan Harner. pic.twitter.com/3mdtrFBe5I— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) February 29, 2020
Following the penalty kill, the Falcons padded their lead with a pair of goals. Cedar Crest's Nolan Hoover struck after a pass from Anthony Long on a 3-on-1 rush. Less than three minutes later, Griffiths scored his second goal of the game on a wide-angle shot while falling.
As the final buzzer sounded, Harner threw his stick toward Hersheypark Arena's barrel ceiling, and his teammates converged on him in a championship celebration.
"The pressure was there," Harner said, "but we knew if we had the confidence, we'd get through it as a team."
Central Dauphin tops Hershey for Bears Cup
In Friday's Bears Cup final, Central Dauphin's William Hershey scored on a breakaway 2:34 into overtime, giving the Rams a 4-3 win over Hershey and the program's first Bears Cup title.
The Rams (16-4-1-0) rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead to take a 3-2 lead in the second period. The Trojans (15-4-1-2) netted the equalizer on the power play off the stick of Cole Buchanan with 4:30 left in regulation.
Hershey's overtime goal capped an undefeated run for the Rams through the CPIHL playoffs.
William Hershey scores 2:34 into OT to give Central Dauphin a 4-3 win over Hershey for the Bears Cup title. pic.twitter.com/x3P977AmSH— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) February 29, 2020