Greater Johnstown Trojans

Greater Johnstown’s Tre Pridgen is swept off his feet by Richland’s Brady Moran during the Laurel Mountain League’s championship game on Friday at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. Richland won 4-3.

Richland wins Laurel Mountain championship

By: Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Bryce Bostian is only a sophomore, but he plays hockey much like a seasoned veteran.
The Richland forward scored three goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as the Rams won their first Laurel Mountain Hockey League championship on Friday night at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Richland edged defending champion Greater Johnstown 4-3 on Bostian’s goal 4:17 into the 10-minute overtime period. His goal was Richland’s second OT game-winner in as many playoff dates over a three-day span.
 “(Richland defenseman) Dom Farina gave it to me – a beautiful pass,” Bostian said, with a gold medal hanging around his neck. “I just had an open net and I put it in.
“It’s a great feeling. Our team put in a great effort. We have a great squad. Everyone put in a good year, the seniors especially.”
The fast-paced, well-played game unfolded in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd. Each school’s student section of fans enhanced the playoff atmosphere with chants and rhythmic pounding on the glass along the dasher boards. At one point, the public address announcer had to ask the students to refrain from shaking the glass so hard.
“In all the years I’ve coached, that’s probably one of the best games, if not the best game, in high school hockey I’ve been a part of,” Johnstown coach Sean McTighe said. “That was a heck of a show. I can’t be more proud of this team.
“It’s a shame we had to come up short, but to be there two years in a row and come within an inch of repeating, I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”
Richland coach J.J. Vasilko credited his 17-5-1 squad for battling through another overtime playoff contest. On Wednesday, the Rams handed top-seeded Somerset the Golden Eagles’ lone loss of the season in the semfinals at Planet Ice.
“This group of seniors was freshmen when we started coaching,” Vasilko said. “They’ve built the program back up to where we need it to be and I’m proud of them.”
Johnstown (18-4) had a swing of emotions in overtime.
Jordan Lonsinger backhanded a rebound into the net for what the Trojans initially thought was the game-winner with 5:53 on the OT clock.
But the whistle had blown just before the shot went into the net.
Only 10 seconds later, Bostian scored on a partial breakaway to end it.
“I think they blew it a little prematurely, but if he loses sight of it, he loses sight of it, and that’s what the referee is supposed to do,” McTighe said. “It looked like it was in. It looked like it was loose, but if they call it a no-goal, we’ve got to just move on. We can’t sit there and dwell on the calls.”
Richland stormed out to a two-goal advantage 11:01 into the game. Luke Obarsky scored 2:30 in after an assist by senior captain Brady Moran.
Obarsky set up Bostian’s first goal almost nine minutes later.
“We just came into this game like every other game,” Obarsky said. “We just came in and worked hard. Johnstown brought it. They had some blue-collar goals. They had some pretty good goaltending.
“It came down to the wire. We’ve done it the past two games. We’ve stepped up and won it.”
McTighe used Johnstown’s time out, and the Trojans rebounded with a pair of goals by junior Devin Smith, the first one short-handed, to tie it after one.
“Heart,” Smith said of the comeback. “It was straight from the heart. If you don’t have heart in this hockey game, it would have been over after that second goal.”
Richland’s Vasilko used his time out after Johnstown’s second goal.
“I told them the same thing we told them Wednesday night when we took a time out after two quick (Somerset) goals,” Vasilko said. “We told them it’s not over. We’re working hard enough to win and playing smart enough to win. We just had to stay out of the penalty box.”
Richland took five second-period penalties and had to kill of a Johnstown 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:12. Three penalties came so close together that the minutes were stacked on the scoreboard.
“When that last second ticks off of a stacked penalty it’s such a swing of emotion,” Vasilko said. “It’s a momentum swing. It’s not a goal or a hit, but you can build momentum when you kill a penalty that is so long like that 5-on-3.”
Bostian scored 42 seconds into the third period, and Johnstown’s Tre Pridgen tied it at 1:50.
Bostian’s OT game-winner set off a celebration on the ice and in the Richland fans’ section near the penalty box.
“I was pretty far back on the play and I saw it from a distance,” Moran said. “When I saw his arms go up, my stomach dropped. It was awesome. It was the best feeling I’ve had in my entire life.
“That’s two overtime games in two days. So many ups and downs. Your emotions are just crazy and I love it. That’s what we play this game for.”
The Shearman cousins each had solid efforts in goal. Richland’s Josh Shearman had 35 saves. Johnstown’s Zach Shearman had 27 stops.
“We’ve played for two championships and we made it to the semifinals two times as well,” Moran said. “To finally lift that trophy high above our heads is the best feeling in the world.”