Penn Hills dek hockey team wins Ontario tournament
The Penn Hills Arsenal dek hockey team accomplished something very few American dek hockey teams have. Arsenal traveled to Barrie, Ontario and won the World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championships on Sept. 21-23.
Penn Hills Arsenal, who entered the tournament ranked 16th in the nation according to ballhockey.com, defeated the Barrie Flyers, 5-3, in the finals to earn their second tournament title. Arsenal’s other tournament title came when they won the Can-Am tournament title in 2015.
Arsenal jumped on Barrie early by getting out to a 2-0 lead after one period of play. In the second period, Arsenal continued their strong play by scoring three more goals in the first five minutes to extend their lead to 5-0.
Arsenal won the first World Outdoor Ball Hockey Championships title for an American team since 2012.
“We go to four or five events a year, and these events are so hard to win between all the Canadian and American teams,” forward Billy Sullivan said.
“It was a euphoric relief when you win with your buddies that you practice with every week and go to all these tournaments with. It was emotional.”
Arsenal went 3-1 during the round-robin portion of the five-team tournament. Penn Hills defeated Stoney Creek Savages, 2-1, in their opening game of the tournament.
Arsenal lost their second game 2-1 to the Barrie Flyers. However, Penn Hills bounced back and won 4-3 and 4-2 against the Niagara War Pigs and Barrie Hitmen in the final two games.
In the semifinals, Arsenal defeated the Barrie Hitmen again by a 4-2 final to force a rematch with the Barrie Flyers, the tournament’s defending champions.
“We’ve had some trouble with them in past tournaments, as well. They are very good at that event since it’s their home event,” Sullivan said.
“When losing to them earlier, we had a lot of penalty trouble and spent nearly one-third of the game in the penalty box. It made it hard for us to win, so we knew we needed to stay out of the box in the finals. That allowed us to really get on top of them.”
Ryan Crossey, from Franklin, led the tournament in goals and scored in the finals for Arsenal. Shawn O’Connor, a Plum native, had two goals in the finals, and Penn Hills native Joe Sheehan was in net.
Sullivan and Sheehan have represented Team USA in previous World Ball Hockey championships.
“We pride ourselves on being neighborhood guys, and we all grew up together. We had one guy that played from New Jersey, but other than that we had guys from Penn Hills, Woodlands Hills, Plum, Gateway and the east side of Pittsburgh,” Sullivan said.
“Going forward, it’s important because it shows what teams can do with just locals when you play well. It will carry us the rest of the season since this is the first tournament of the year. Hopefully, it’s a start of a domino effect.”
Arsenal will look to continue their good start when they travel Nov. 2-4 to Leominster, Ma. to participate in the Can-Am tournament. Arsenal lost in the finals in overtime the last two seasons and won the tournament in 2015.