Highlanders defeated in shootout

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Two crucial saves in the shootout by freshman goalkeeper Nick Singer sealed the win Thursday night, 4-3, as No. 6 Forest Hills earned its first playoff win in program history.

With both teams tied at two a piece after regulation and two periods of overtime, Singer denied shots from Seth Conaway and Clayton Nelen, and Alex Cornman and Jeremy Weis scored to clinch the win and propel the Rangers into the second round of the District 6 Class AA playoffs.

“It’s the first time that we’ve made it this far,” Singer said of his team’s recent success in the playoffs. “I’m just glad we were able to get the win.”

Only one season removed from a 1-16 finish, the Rangers climbed back to claim one of seven playoff spots in the Class AA playoffs.

Rangers coach Nick Galczynski said that after such a poor 2017 season, it was just a bit more special to advance to the semifinals this year.

“It’s a very big moment for the program,” Galczynski said of the first playoff win in program history. “Any playoff win is important, but after a tough year last year, it means a lot to come back stronger and win here to tonight.”

No. 3 Cambria Heights struck first just over two minutes into the game when defender Brett Eckenrode found the net on a direct kick from over 20 yards out.

Midway through the first half, the Rangers responded when Lucas Smay’s shot from inside the box snuck past Farabaugh.

But the Highlanders took the lead shortly before the half with a goal by Luke Lamb, and the Highlanders seemed to have the momentum.

Galczynski said that even though his team was down at the half, he knew it would take a complete game to come away with the win.

“They played hard all the way through,” Galczynski said. “We got back into it in the second half, and double overtime is always tough, especially in the second half. I thought these guys performed really well.”

Not giving up paid off as Forest Hills got a break just five minutes into the second half.

Josh Jones sent a shot on net with hardly any velocity, but Heights goalkeeper Avery Farabaugh slipped in the crease and was unable to get across, and the ball rolled into the net to tie the game.

“I was so surprised whenever it went it,” Jones said. “We needed to get some shots on net, and I didn’t really think mine had too much to it. Thankfully it went in.”

Farabaugh stood in front of two Forest Hills shots in the shootout, and Brett Eckenrode scored the lone goal in the shootout for Cambria Heights.

Cambria Heights coach Adam Strasser said that although his team did not get the win, he is proud of where the program is headed.

In his three years as head coach, the Highlanders have made the playoffs all three seasons, including a trip to the District 6 semifinals in 2016.

“The kids have really bought in to what we’re doing here,” Strasser said. “They’ve been working really hard in the offseason and during the regular season to create a culture of winning. All three years I’ve had veteran leaders and guys that will give everything to you that they have. When you do that, you always give yourself a chance to win.”

Strasser and Galczynski were teammates on the Highlanders soccer team in the mid 2000s.

Strasser said it’s impressive with what his former teammate has been able to do with the program.

“Forest Hills has a nice team,” Strasser said. “They’ve definitely improved as the season went on. Coach Galczynski and I played together, so I know Nick well, and he’s done a really nice job there. Hats off to them. Their kids really wanted it, and they have a really nice team that worked hard to get into this spot.”

SCORE BY HALVES

Forest Hills 1 1 0 0 2 — 4

Cambria Heights 2 0 0 0 1 — 3

First half: CH–Eckenrode, 37:44; FH–Smay, 18:49; CH–Lamb, 11:42

Second half: FH–Jones, 34:31

Shootout: FH–Weis; CH–Eckenrode; FH–Cornman

CH–Farabaugh, nine saves; Singer, eight saves

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