CRANBERRY TWP., Pa.; March 19, 2024 – Two years ago, the Thomas Jefferson High School hockey team needed four unanswered goals in the third period to force overtime en route to the school's first PIHL 2A Penguins Cup Championship since 2000.

On Monday night, the No. 2 seeded Jaguars used five consecutive tallies in the second period to build a 6-2 lead en route to an 8-4 victory over Penn-Trafford to capture TJ's second Penguins Cup in three years. The Jaguars (21-2) have won 14 consecutive games since a 4-2 loss to South Fayette on December 14.

Playing in front of a boisterous, sold-out crowd at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, the Jaguars delivered the fifth PensCup crown in school history, joining the 1998,1999 and 2000 PensCup and state championship squads and the 2022 comeback titlists.

The common denominator among all five teams? John Zeiler, who was a center on TJ's 1998-99-2000 championship squads and played for the NHL's Los Angeles Kings before returning as TJ's head coach for the 2021-22 season.

With the victory, TJ advanced to the PIHL 2A state championship game against Flyers Cup 2A victor, either Council Rock South or Pennridge, who play Wednesday night. The state title clash is Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m. at the Haverford Skatium in Havertown. The Jaguars will be seeking their first state title since capturing three straight from 1998-2000.

"Seeing this group of seniors mature has been wonderful," stated Zeiler. "The team has been focused and hungry all season. It was exciting how we answered back after they took the lead twice and then we just started dominating. We finished. The guys made some nice plays; some plays that might go unnoticed. It took a lot of hard work to make it happen. This is the last hurrah for some of the seniors; it will be the last time they put the skates on."

Senior Jake Stock delivered his second consecutive hat trick in Monday's win, giving him seven goals in the three Penguins Cup victories. Senior Scott Allan gave the Jaguars the lead for good in the second frame, tying the contest at 2-2 and then scoring less than two minutes later for a 3-2 advantage. The two quick goals ignited TJ, who scored three more times in just 1:42 to take a commanding 6-2 lead into the final period.

Penn-Trafford cut the lead to 6-4 before Stock tallied an empty net goal and added one more for the final margin to the delight of the large TJ contingent in the stands. Senior Andrew Oliver scored twice, tying the game, 1-1, late in the first period and then adding his second for a 4-2 advantage during the five-goal spree. Freshman Lucas Blose also scored during the second period flurry for a 5-2 edge before Stock added his first of the contest.

Junior goaltender Ronnie Porupsky made 12 saves for the Jaguars.

For the 10 Jaguar seniors on the varsity, the work for this season began last April with skating and tryouts followed by summer conditioning.

"We've been working towards this all year," Stock said. "We've just stayed focused on winning this championship the last nine months."

"It's a surreal feeling," said Allan, who scored the game-winning overtime goal in the 6-5 PensCup victory over Franklin Regional in 2022. "It's a very rewarding feeling knowing all the work we've put in. To hoist that trophy is pretty special."

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