Palmyra falls in final minutes in CPIHL playoff opener
MECHANICSBURG -- Palmyra hockey knew the defense of the program’s first Bears Cup was not going to be an easy journey.
Wednesday night at Twin Ponds West, the Cougars got their first dose of that reality.
Cumberland Valley scored three goals in closing minutes to snap a late tie and beat Palmyra 7-4, in the CPIHL Tier 1 playoff opener for both.
The double-elimination tournament picks back up next Wednesday. The Cougars will face rival Lower Dauphin in an elimination tilt at Klick Lewis Arena.
CV, which finished second to Hershey during the regular season, will take on the Trojans in the winner’s bracket. Hershey defeated LD 4-2 in Wednesday’s other Tier 1 playoff opener, at KLA.
CV’s Jon Wescoe potted the game-winner on the power play with a rebound tip-in with 4:33 to play to break the deadlock. Palmyra had rallied from 4-2 down entering the third period on goals by Tyler Depuy -- his second of the night -- and Jake Herman.
The Cougars could not contain CV’s dynamic duo of Jared Lombardi and Steve Capuano down the stretch. Both Eagles recorded hat tricks -- and each completed the feat with the final two goals of the game. Capuano drained a 30-footer into an empty net with 18 ticks left for the final margin to bag his hattie.
“The fact of the matter is CV has excellent hockey players, two guys who are fantastic and who, when they put their minds to it, can control the game,” Palmyra assistant coach Bob Daley said. “That’s what happened tonight. They overpowered us."
Head coach Warren Lewis had to tend to family business immediately following the game, "We played our hearts out. But Lombardi and Cappy are excellent hockey players and it showed tonight.”
It didn’t start out that way.
Depuy got the first of his two just 42 seconds into the contest with the first shot on goal. The glove-side stuffer slipped past CV netminder Owen Gallagher and the Cougars were off and skating. It was the only marker of the opening period.
But Lombardi put his stamp on the match by scoring twice in a 37-second span early in the second period.
The first was on a power play feed from Capuano at 43 seconds.
The second was a snipe from the left faceoff dot streaking down the wing that cleanly beat Cougars’ goalie Liam Schmidt.
Schmidt was making his second start since returning from a concussion suffered against these same Eagles back on Jan. 11 at KLA.
“We always seem to play bad on Wednesdays,” CV head coach James Schuck said, commenting on Palmyra’s quick start. “But I think the kids responded real well. We needed to get back and skate hard. It was a physical game. We needed to forecheck.”
Palmyra’s Cam Ihli tied the score at 2 just 27 after Lombardi gave CV the lead, for a third goal in 54 seconds.
But Capuano got in on the fun by scoring consecutive goals, the second of which came on a short-handed breakaway at 13:56 for a 4-2 CV lead.
Palmyra goes back to the drawing board in anticipation of next week’s eliminator against LD.
“We have to fine tune some of the things in defensive zone,” Daley said. “That’s been killing us all year…The kids will be ready to go. They’ve smelled victory before. Three-quarters of the room knows how it feels to (win it all) and they’re not going to go down without a fight.”