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Palermo gets redemption in OT for Strath Haven

Strath Haven’s Ethan Belville, left, and Nicky Palermo celebrate Belville’s goal in the second quarter of last Saturday’s PIAA Class 2A quarterfinal. Palermo scored in OT to lead Haven past Mars Area, 12-11 in overtime, in the semifinals Tuesday. (Pete Bannan/For Digital First Media)

SILVER SPRING TWP. >> Not once but twice during their PIAA Class 2A semifinal, the weather informed the players from Strath Haven and Mars Area High Schools that they each had to regroup, retreating to the locker rooms at Cumberland Valley for delays of 53 and 32 minutes.

So when Nicky Palermo had to undergo a personal circling of the wagons, it wasn’t that big of a shock. With less than four minutes left and the Panthers nursing a two-goal lead, Palermo ended a promising possession with an illegal screen behind the net. Ninety seconds later, the game was tied.

“I also missed one on the crease, right in front of the crease, when we were up by two, and then they tied it,” the junior attackman also volunteered. “… That made it a little worse.”

Judging by the chorus of exuberant fans behind him for his post-game interview — which caused Palermo into another reorganization of his thoughts, this one while being celebratorily doused from water bottles — he found a way to make things better.

Palermo buried a shot on the man-advantage 3:17 into overtime, sending the Panthers to the state final with a 12-11 win in a scintillating seesaw affair.

“I just didn’t want to end the season like that,” Palermo said.

His regret echoed what the Panthers felt at large. The third seed from District 1 started slow and trailed by as many as three in the first half. It took a refocusing early in the second half to get the job done, the longer weather delay intervening just 24 seconds into the frame.

“In the locker room during the lightning delay, we were just trying to stay focused and not trying to focus on what they’re doing but what we can do better,” defender Ryan Morris said. “It was playing our game instead of falling into their hands.”

The Panthers tied things up at eight by the end of the third, Jeff Conner and Chris Rosini netting within 18 seconds. Two more goals, by Ibo Pio and Conner again, made it 10-8 Haven. But then the thunder pealed once more. And this time the Fightin’ Planet came out swinging.

“We went back in and we reset,” attackman Cade Hetzler said. “That’s what happened during the delay (for them), and they knew they weren’t out of it so they came out firing. Then we did the same thing.”

Mike Doyle scored twice, bookending a Conner tally. The second was a behind-the-back-squared goal, Hetzler feeding over his shoulder and Doyle flipping over his into the net, as beautiful a tally as you’ll ever see.
Hetzler supplied Anthony Grieco to tie the game at 2:46, just after yet another Andrew Moyer faceoff win, where Mars was 16-for-26 on the day.

Vincey Palermo stuffed a shot by pole Owen Corsi with just over a minute to play, and AJ Santisi caused a turnover that Morris scooped and cleared with 59.8 left. That left Conner, who had five goals and an assist in passing 400 points for his career, to take the final shot of regulation, which rang the crossbar.

Freshman Christian Mazur won the OT draw and was hauled down by Moyer to earn the flag.

With Conner locked off, Nicky Palermo cut across the crease eight yards out and got the feed from Belville to complete his hat trick and cue the dogpile in the corner.

“I said, ‘I can’t believe this is happening right now,’” Nicky Palermo said. “I was just so excited. I was kind of surprised. I was shocked.”

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