JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – The Westmont Hilltop seed relied on depth and his ability to counter every momentum of Hollidaysburg to win a Laurel Mountain Hockey League semifinal 7-5 on Tuesday night at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial .
Kobe Rickabaugh had two goals and an assist, Anthony Marano provided three assists and freshman goaltender Luke Snider held off a Golden Tigers push in the third period as the Hilltoppers advanced to the title game of Thursday in the Ann Harris Smith Cup tournament.
“It was a total team effort,” said Westmont Hilltop coach Kris Carlson, whose 18-3 side will face third seed Bishop McCort Catholic at War Memorial. In the 2021 title match, Bishop McCort prevailed 3-2.
“Everyone was weighing their weight. That’s what we needed. With a few key guys out, we needed everyone to step up and do their part. We got it tonight.
For the second straight playoff game, the Hilltoppers played without LMHL leading scorer Aiden Rice and goaltender Ian Amaranto. Carlson said every player was out due to health issues.
“We had a next-man mentality,” Carlson said. “We have our top scorer absent, but we managed to get secondary points from other people, and we will need them again on Thursday night.”
Westmont Hilltop quickly built a two-goal advantage over the fourth-seeded Golden Tigers (16-6).
Payton Sell scored into an open net after Logan Glessner’s first shot was blocked by Hollidaysburg keeper Ty Duey at 3:13 of the start of the game.
Colin Gorman of the Hilltoppers scored unassisted at 5:32.
“We just lost the momentum early on,” Hollidaysburg coach Cory Reed said. “We had a big game in the quarterfinals where we came back (in a 3-2 win over Central Cambria). I thought we had the energy, but it just wasn’t there.
Hollidaysburg capitalized on a power play opportunity as Ty Burket converted with just 12.6 left in the opening period to make it 2-1.
In the second period, Westmont Hilltop’s Rickabaugh hit a rebound from Landrey Burnheimer’s shot. The shorthanded goal made it 3-1 at 6:03.
“We definitely went to the hard-net,” Carlson said. “We worked on that in practice this week, just getting the pucks to the net and smashing the net hard. We wanted to get off to a good start, and we did.
The Golden Tigers came back to within a point as Zachary Dunlap scored a looping goal at 9:51.
Westmont Hilltop’s Glessner scored on the power play by rebounding Marano’s attempt. Nicholas Rozich handed the puck to Marano for the goal that made it 4-2 at 13:35 of the second period.
In the third period, the teams combined for as many goals – six – as they had been scored in two periods.
“To our credit, we didn’t get rattled,” Carlson said. “We just kept moving forward. We had penalty problems and they were able to put some.
Hollidaysburg’s Julian Drass made it 4-3 with a goal 2:14 into the final period, but Westmont’s Rickabaugh responded with a goal just under two minutes later.
The Golden Tigers got their own response from Isaac Miller, whose goal at 5:42 once again cut the deficit to one.
But Westmont Hilltop’s Alex Crespo kept the streak going at 6:23 to give the Hilltoppers a 6-4 lead.
Carson Young’s power-play goal put the Tigers up 6-5 with 6:12 remaining.
“We just came out in third and said, ‘Let’s just throw the pucks on the net, work hard, get around the front of the net and see what happens,'” Reed said, “but we just don’t have We couldn’t get the rebounds. They did a great job of getting the guys in front and blocking the shots. We couldn’t get anything through.
“We had (17) shots. We average around 40 or 45 per game. They did a great job.”
Westmont’s Kyle Replogle scored from the left point to convert a power play with 3:45 left. Rozich helped make it 7-5.
Hollidaysburg goaltender Duey made 27 saves. Westmont’s Snider stopped 12 shots.
“He did what we asked of him,” Carlson said. “All we asked was for him to make the first save, and he did.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports journalist and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.