STATE COLLEGE —
The Somerset High School hockey team overcame a two-goal deficit and used another last-second goal to claim the Laurel Mountain Hockey League championship on Thursday night.
Junior foreign exchange student Frederik Gildsig scored with 21.2 seconds left on the Pegula Ice Arena scoreboard clock, and the Golden Eagles defeated Hollidaysburg, 3-2.
“I got a pass from (Jordan) Beistel. I took the chance and it went in,” said Gildsig, who is from Denmark. “I was just thinking of getting anything on net with a chance to win the game. I took the shot and it went in.”
Somerset (19-3-0) won its first title in its fifth championship game appearance under coach Matt Cavrak. The Golden Eagles previously had title shots in the PIHL Penguin Cup Final in 2004 and later in that league’s Open Division and two previous appearances in the LMHL.
Cavrak credited his players for working and improving throughout a season in which the second-seeded Golden Eagles surprised even their coach.
“This is a group of guys that you probably didn’t expect to win with considering the previous teams in the last three to five years,” Cavrak said. “You almost kind of think you should have had a couple (championships) there, and then you do it with a group that at the beginning of the year you didn’t know what you were going to get. These guys worked hard the season long and finished it off.”
No. 4 Hollidaysburg (16-6-1) took a 2-0 second period lead with goals 1:18 apart by Milo Defay and Brandon Ritchey, the league’s leading scorer with 54 goals and 90 points. The Golden Tigers seemed poised for another big upset after previously beating top-seeded Greater Johnstown 4-3 in the semifinals.
“It was a tight first. We went out in the second and thought if we could score first we could put them on their heels,” Hollidaysburg coach Craig Fitzgerald said. “That always allows an opportunity to score a quick one (after the first goal).
“Once they regained their composure, they locked it down defensively and just didn’t give us any space,” Fitzgerald added. “That’s the game they play. They play pressure, and we just struggled with it all night.”
Somerset outshot Hollidaysburg 31-13. The Eagles limited the Tigers to two shots on goal in both the first and third periods.
Hollidaysburg goaltender Brandon Amigh made 28 saves. Somerset’s Samuel Sujansky, one of the semifinal win heroes, had 11 stops.
“Amigh played a great game,” Cavrak said. “Our goalie came up huge at the end. You couldn’t ask for a better performance from both teams.”
Cavrak used his time out after the Eagles fell behind 2-0 at 3:29 of the second period.
“We took that time out and tried to settle things down,” Cavrak said. “We just wanted to calm them down. There was a lot of the game to be played. We just needed to settle down, get back to playing our game.”
Somerset received a jolt via Stephen Yaros’ goal at 6:54 of the second. Jonathan Wisten won the faceoff to set up Yaros in between the circles.
At that point, Yaros had netted Somerset’s last three goals dating to the double overtime semifinal victory over Richland at Planet Ice last week. In that 3-2 win, Yaros scored with 1:07 remaining in regulation and then hit the game-winner with 14 seconds left in the second overtime session.
Somerset’s Beistel tied the game 6:54 into the final period with a shot from the slot area.
“I was down low and I was trying to work hard,” Beistel said. “We had to get a hard forecheck going. I was pressing. He coughed up the puck. I put a shot on the net and it went in.”
The Eagles picked up the intensity and had several excellent scoring chances, but Amigh turned them away, often using his glove. Wisten was sprung for a one-on-one opportunity with 3:20 left, but Amigh’s glove got a piece of the low shot.
“We just said to ourselves, ‘We’re not losing this again,’ ” Beistel said.
Hollidaysburg used its time out with 3:15 left.
Wisten and Beistel set up Gildsig’s game-winner.
“I was just going to clear the puck,” Beistel said. “I took time to set up, and I saw Freddy across the ice and I sent him a pass. It went tape-to-tape and he had a nice shot to finish.”
The win set off a celebration on the ice and in the stands at Pegula, a brand new, state-of-the-art home of the Penn State hockey program.
“It took a lot of effort and team play to get back in this game,” Gildsig said. “We got together as a team and won the game.”
Notes: RMG Sports will broadcast the game on tape delay on Channel 23 at noon on March 30. ... No penalties were called in the game. ... Wisten, Beistel and Ritchey each had two points.
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.