Richland established a two-goal first-period advantage, and the Rams quickly answered a pair of Central Cambria goals in the second period en route to a 6-2 victory in the opening round of the Laurel Mountains Hockey League playoffs on Monday.
“They brought it within a goal,” Richland coach J.J. Vasilko said. “When you can kill that momentum right away, that’s a great thing. We didn’t let them sustain any momentum or pressure. We got some bounces and good opportunities and ended up on top.”
Richland added two third-period goals to secure the win at Planet Ice.
The Rams (14-5-2) will face second-seeded Somerset in Wednesday’s semifinal at 8 p.m. at Planet Ice. Top-seeded Greater Johnstown had a first-round bye and will meet Hollidaysburg, an 8-3 winner over Bishop Guilfoyle, in Wednesday’s early semifinal at Planet Ice.
Central Cambria finished 8-12-1.
Richland set the pace early on goals by Zach Wesner 2:47 into the game, and Bryce Bostian on the power play at 6:50. The Rams outshot the Red Devils 15-4 in the first 15 minutes.
Central Cambria cut the deficit in half via Nate Shorto’s power-play goal on a deflection 2:25 into the second.
But Richland answered almost immediately as Wesner scored 7 seconds later.
The pattern continued later in the second period. Central Cambria’s Kyle Eckenrod was credited with a power-play goal as his shot through traffic appeared to be redirected in with Devil Noah Tomallo in front of the cage at 9:45.
Richland’s Jason Edsall scored an unassisted goal just over a minute later to reestablish the Rams’ two-goal margin at 4-2.
“We got into a little bit of penalty trouble and gave up two power play goals,” Vasilko said. “They played us well defensively. You could tell they wanted to take Jason Edsall’s line out of the equation. Their goalie played a heck of a game too.”
Central Cambria goaltender Jacob Lieb had 35 saves. Richland netminder Garrett Wingard stopped 12 of 14 shots.
Richland had a 26-10 advantage in shots on goal through two periods and finished with a 41-14 margin.
Luke Olexo backhanded a shot from the slot into the net with 5:21 to play, giving the Rams a 5-2 lead in the third.
Bostian converted a short-handed breakaway with 3:54 left to end the scoring.