The last time the Altoona ice hockey team hosted a playoff game the seniors on the current roster were just starting junior high school. The underclassmen were still in elementary school.
The Mountain Lions took full advantage of their first home playoff game in six years, downing Greensburg Salem 5-4 Sunday at Galactic Ice in the PIHL Open Cup Northeast quarterfinals.
Altoona got contributions from up and down the roster with five different players scoring goals.
Tied 3-3 at the end of two periods, Jake Russo and Garrett Madigan scored back-to-back goals early in the third, and Altoona held off Greensburg Salem to advance.
"That's what you play for. This is a memory these kids will have the rest of their lives," Altoona coach Don Burgmeier said. "Everybody contributed. We're at our best when we play as a team."
Fourth-seeded Altoona plays top seed Baldwin Tuesday in the semifinals at Ice Castle in Pittsburgh's south side.
Burgmeier pulled Catcher Cumming off the blueline to play goalie, and the sophomore netminder backstopped the win, saving 33-of-37 shots on goal.
"He's a good goalie. He did a really good job considering he hasn't been in the net the last three months. He's been one of our defenseman," Burgmeier said.
Cumming kept Altoona in the game early as Greensburg Salem stormed out of the gate. Greensburg Salem controlled the action, outshooting Altoona 12-4, but the Mountain Lions made it to the first break tied 1-1.
Altoona's leading scorer, Matthew Dalto, put his team up 1-0 with an unassisted goal 4:22 into the game. Greensburg Salem's Logan Davis tied the score 1-1 with the first of his three goals.
Between the high school team and the traveling clubs, it was the sixth game since Thursday for most of the players.
"It was one of those games where it took a little while to get going," Russo said. "We got our legs in the second period. The muscles got loose, and we were able to play harder."
Austin Myers scored early in the second period with assists going to Russo and Cameron Sheets. After Cole Bier tied the game 2-2, Sheets scored with 43 seconds left in the period to put Altoona back on top 3-2.
The lead was short-lived. Davis scored with 10 seconds left in the period to tie the game once again.
The Lions regrouped and came out strong at the start of the third period. Russo scored off a faceoff in the left circle. Austin Myers won the faceoff, and Russo beat Greensburg Salem goalie Dakota Sheetz high to the glove side.
"I tried that a few times earlier in the game," Russo said. "Austin lined up high. It went through the center's legs and the defenseman slid to cover the wing. That opened up a window of opportunity for me."
Madigan scored 2:09 later with a shot from the left point that got past Sheetz.
Greensburg Salem made a late push to tie it. Davis scored on the power play with 2:08 remaining, and Greensburg-Salem peppered Cumming with several shots in the final minute, but Altoona held on for the win.
"The last five minutes we were gassed," Burgmeier said. "We went into more of a defensive system and really had to grind it out to get the win.''
SCORE BY PERIODS
Greensburg Salem1 2 1-4
Altoona 1 2 2-5
FIRST PERIOD: A - Dalto (unassisted), 4:22; GS - Davis (unassisted), 15:05.
SECOND PERIOD: A - Myers (Russo, Sheets), 1:05; GS - Bier (Davis), 9:44; A - Sheets (Russo), 16:17; GS - Davis (unassisted), 16:50.
THIRD PERIOD: A - Russo (Myers), 3:48; A - Madigan (unassisted); 5:57; Davis (Bier), 14:52.
Goalies: Sheetz, GS, 20 shots saved-25 shots faced; Cumming, A, 33 shots saved-37 shots faced.