By Paul Schofield | TribHSSN
Fox Chapel is hoping the third trip to the PIHL finals is a charm.
The top-seeded Foxes reached the Penguins Cup Class A finals for the first time since 1997 by defeating returning champion Norwin, 7-3, on Wednesday at Robert Morris University’s Island Sports Center. Fox Chapel never has won a title.
Liam Wiseman led the Foxes with three goals.
Fox Chapel, which dropped a heartbreaker in overtime during the 2022 semifinals, will face Kiski, which defeated Greensburg Salem, 3-1, at 8:45 p.m. Monday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
“We were in the same position last year with this group, and we suffered the heartbreak,” Fox Chapel coach Cameron Raidna said. “This one was special for us. We knew it would be a close one no matter what the scores were in the first two meetings. We wanted to get pucks deep and put shots on goal. We played our game.”
Added Wiseman: “This feels great after what happened last year. Getting a hat trick and Mason (Heininger) getting two goals was great. Once we got that short-handed goal (by Wiseman), the game was pretty much over.”
Fox Chapel jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period on goals by Sam Smith in the first period and Wiseman and Alex Macek early in the second period. It was Smith’s and Macek’s first goals of the playoffs.
“A three-goal deficit is not a good feeling,” Norwin coach Mike Robinson said. “We battled back and had the fight, but the bounces didn’t go our way. It’s hockey.”
Norwin, which dropped 7-3 and 9-2 decisions to Fox Chapel during the regular season, didn’t fold the tents. Unassisted goals by high-powered forward Alex Thomas and Dominik Costantino trimmed the lead to 3-2 heading to the third period.
“I told the players that we had to dig deep,” Raidna said. “The two quick goals were a wakeup call. We just had to get them to believe in themselves, and they came out and performed. They are a great group of guys.”
Early in the third period, Fox Chapel’s Heininger chipped in a bouncing puck, and Wiseman tallied his second goal to push the lead to 5-2.
Thomas tallied his seventh goal of the playoffs on the power play with 5:13 left to make it 5-3, but the Foxes iced the game with a short-handed goal and empty netter.
“Fox Chapel played a super-great game,” Robinson said. “I honestly think they are deeper than they were last year.”