Lunden’s goal lifts Franklin Regional over Hempfield in key PIHL Class AA game
In a flash, Trent Lunden flipped the puck into the net, and the game was over.
Just like that Monday night, Franklin Regional rallied late against Hempfield to tie the score and send the game into overtime, where Lunden lit the lamp at 1 minute, 4 seconds to give the Panthers a 3-2 victory in a PIHL Class AA game at Nevin Arena.
Franklin Regional swept both games of the season series against Hempfield and moved within a point of the Spartans for third place in the Southeast Division with one regular-season game remaining.
“It was surreal,” Lunden said of his game-winning goal, a rebound shot off Hempfield goaltender Joseph Behler’s pads.
He had to think for a few seconds, when asked if he’d ever scored a game-winner in OT.
“Maybe whenever I was little,” he said. “The feeling is indescribable. I’ll probably never go to sleep tonight.”
Franklin Regional goaltender Daniel Soltesz was brilliant, stopping 43 of 45 Hempfield shots, but was on the hook for a loss until Mathieu Sliva pulled the Panthers even at 2-2 with a goal at 12:54 of the third period.
“You hate the result, but we played exactly like we wanted to tonight,” Hempfield coach Dennis Zeravica said. “I know the kids are upset because they thought we should have had more penalties called — and they should have — but we’re not worried about the referees. We played a solid game. We controlled the whole game. I can’t be mad.”
Franklin Regional took a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period on Oldrich Virag’s goal. Hempfield went up, 2-1, with a pair of goals in the second from Matthew Bartus at 9:30 and Jared Gerger at 15:11.
It was looking as though the Spartans, who entered the night with the top-scoring offense in Class 2A, would hang on for a victory in a low-scoring game.
But Sliva’s late goal in the third swung the momentum in Franklin Regional’s favor.
“That’s what we get when we play Hempfield,” Franklin Regional coach Brian Kurtz said. “It’s a big rivalry for us. It was a huge game in terms of the standings and placements. There was a lot riding on this game.”
Had Franklin Regional been able to win the game in regulation, the two teams would have entered their final games next Monday — Franklin Regional against Baldwin at Center Ice Arena and Hempfield against Latrobe at Nevin Arena — tied for third.
But Hempfield managed to stay ahead of Franklin Regional by a point after the teams went to overtime.
“We would have had the tiebreaker with them if we would have won in regulation,” Kurtz said. “But we’ll take it the way it is now.
Kurtz lauded the play of Soltesz, whom he said has been strong in goal all year.
“Danny came up big again,” Kurtz said. “It was one of his better games. He’s shown a lot. He’s our backup.”
Kurtz was proud of the way the Panthers hung in at the end, saying the team prevailed, “just because of a lot of hard work.
“We had the better first period. They outplayed us in the second. It was just a matter of who kind of wanted it the most in the third. Our guys responded well. It was a good character win.”
Dave Mackall is a freelance writer.