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Meadville's playoff hopes stay alive with win at the MARC

Feb. 20—Needing a win to stay alive in the hunt for the postseason, the Meadville hockey team came up big Monday night.

Meadville beat Mars 5-3 at George S. DeArment Ice Arena. The win was the Bulldogs' final home game of the season and a fitting way to go out for the seniors.

"It didn't hit me til later this afternoon it was the last home game. It's great. I told the kids it's nice to win their last home game, but also a game that meant something," Meadville head coach Kyle Waite said. "There was a lot riding on this for their last game and they got the win, so hopefully everything else works out and we get a chance."

The Bulldogs got started early. Less than one minute into the game, senior Zach Schepner, parked directly in front of the net, corralled a pass from fellow senior Rocco Tartaglione and buried the puck into Mars' net for an early lead.

Mars answered on a power play in the last two minutes of the period to erase the lead entering the second.

Meadville's Graham Shellhaas scored off an assist from Robert Mahoney early in the second. Tartaglione added a goal of his own at the 11:29 mark from a Ben Hilson pass. The 3-1 lead was short-lived, as the Fightin' Planets cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes left in the period.

Ryan Yunik extended Meadville's lead back to two goals when he scored on ShellHaas' assist. Yet again, Mars answered. This time just 49 seconds after Yunik's goal, to keep pressure on the Bulldogs.

With about four minutes left to play and on a power play, Waite called a timeout with the intent to give his guys a rest and go up two goals. It didn't go to plan, but in the final minute of the game Mars pulled their goalie. It allowed Preston Phillis to score from the blue line with 36 seconds left to put the game on ice.

The win pushes Meadville to 11-5 in PIHL conference play. The top six teams from PIHL Varsity A Gold advance to the playoffs and the Bulldogs sat in seventh with 23 points before Monday's game. The 'Dogs sat behind Greensburg-Salem with 24 points.

"Tonight's win was huge. We went down and played Indiana on Thursday, which is a very good team and I thought we played very well," Waite said. "We got a point out of that. I thought the kids played well tonight, they played hard. We need a little help.

"I think we need Greensburg to lose a game with two tough games left. They have Quaker Valley tonight (Monday) and they play Indiana on Thursday."

The result of Greensburg-Salem and Quaker Valley was not decided by press time.

Meadville plays at Shaler on Thursday for a regular season finale. If Meadville wins and Greensburg-Salem loses either Monday's game or Thursday's game, the Bulldogs would punch a ticket to the playoffs.

"We still have another very tough game in Shaler. We beat them here in a last second 5-4 game. Im sure they'll be looking for revenge," Waite said. "The nice thing is we've given oursevlves a chance. We're still in the thick of it."

Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at atopor@meadvilletribune.com.