CASTLE SHANNON — National Hockey League Game 7s are perhaps the most unpredictable games in professional sports.

As it turns out, anything can happen in one Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League playoff game, too. The Meadville Bulldogs found that out the hard way on Wednesday when they were decimated in the semifinals by North Allegheny, 7-0.

“I give (North Allegheny) full credit,” said Meadville coach Jamie Plunkett. “They played a very, very good game.

“We just didn’t play well tonight. We had one of those nights, and unfortunately, we picked the wrong night to have one of those nights.”

Meadville defeated North Allegheny 3-1 at DeArment Ice Arena during the regular season. The Tigers, however, were without three of their best players in that contest — Richard Halapin, Danny Gaertner and Chris Simanic. Halapin was a Bulldog Killer on Wednesday, scoring his team’s first three goals.

His first came on an assist from Gaertner with 10:13 remaining in the opening period when the Bulldogs couldn’t clear the puck. Playing shorthanded 10 seconds later on Brian Stanton’s two minute minor for tripping, Morgan Nickerson had a chance to tie the game on a breakaway. His low shot bounced harmlessly off of Tiger netminder Max Richards’ leg pad.

“We seemed awful tight, awful nervous,” Plunkett said. “Maybe if we score there (it would have been a different game). If (Nickerson) scores on that shorthanded breakaway maybe we relax a little bit.”

The Bulldogs got a power play of their own with 4:47 remaining in the first when Halapin was sent to the box for slashing. But the one-man advantage didn’t help the Bulldogs, who failed to register a shot during the two-minute span and never set up their offense. Still, after one period, Meadville was in striking distance down just 1-0.

Halapin did his major damage in the second.

Nested in the Bulldog defensive zone, Halapin tapped in a shot from the blue line by Gaertner just three minutes into the second. He scored his second with just under six minutes remaining when he snapped a shot past Meadville goalie Bryan Danczak after Meadville again failed to clear the puck.

“We were a step behind all night long,” said Plunkett. “(North Allegheny) got that quick lead and we never put any kind of sustained pressure on them.”

Tiger Chris Gilson put the Tigers up 4-0 late in the second when he slammed home a power play goal.

“It was a long night,” Plunkett said.

If the Bulldogs had any thoughts of creeping back into the game, they were put to rest early in the third when Matt Lancaster and Josh Herbert scored breakaway goals three minutes apart from each other with over 10 minutes left on the clock. Nick Vaglia scored North Allegheny’s final goal on a pass from Gaertner right in front of Danczak, which he stuffed home with 7:04 remaining in the game.

Danczak kept the ‘Dogs in the game early. In all, he made 22 saves.

“(Danczak) has been so good for us the last two years,” said Plunkett. “He has high standards. By his standards it was (an off night).”

Registering just three shots, Meadville was 0-for-5 on the power play, although two of those chances were for less than 30 seconds.

“What shots we had (on the power play) were blocked,” Plunkett said. “I think we started to get panicky and forced some things.”

Meadville graduates seven seniors from this year’s squad, but will return next season with three of its top five scorers and Danczak.

“The future looks bright,” Plunkett said. “We have a nice core of underclassmen that were major contributors this year and, hopefully those will be the guys that get us going in the right direction again next year.”

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