By JOE SAGER
CORAOPOLIS – For Team New England North, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
Despite a short bench, Team New England North rolled past Team Ohio, 6-2, in Saturday’s quarterfinals at the 26th Annual America’s Showcase at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island.
Team New England North (3-1) will meet Team Philadelphia (3-1) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Saturday as it hopes to defend its championship.
Senior Shane Tracy, who is tied for the team lead with nine points, was part of last year’s title team. He hopes his squad can defend its crown.
“We had a lot more guys last year. But, it was awesome to know we came out on top,” he said.
“We are really short-staffed this year, so we’re playing a lot of minutes and getting in a groove, but we fought off a lot of defensive turnovers today.
Zach Sanford, who has nine points as well, led the way for Team New England North with three goals on the afternoon.
“It was nice,” he said. “We wanted to come out with a quick start and play really well offensively and get a few in there. After that, we were able to coast a little bit after that and use our bench.
Sanford got New England North on the scoreboard first when he buried Tracy’s backhanded pass 6:24 into the game.
Team Ohio tied it less than a minute later when Jordan Mardirossian jammed in a rebound for a power-play goal.
Aaron Titcomb scored with 6:11 left in the first and Sanford added his second of the period as New England North carried a 3-1 lead into the second.
Jake Shepherd’s high shoot trimmed Ohio’s deficit to 3-2 just 1:29 into the second.
However, New England North came back with Luke Bennett and Eric Grover goals to post a 5-2 lead after two periods.
Sanford completed the hat-trick 5:11 into the third period to push New England North’s lead to 6-2.
“I have been talking to Shane; we’ve been buddies for a while. He told me this tournament was a great time,” Sanford said. “We’ve been playing pretty well and putting the puck in the net. Our goalies are playing well, too.
Team Ohio (2-1-1) took on a local appearance as it used nine Pittsburgh-area players to fill out its roster. Mike Sweeney, a junior from Upper St. Clair, led the team with nine points.
“They needed guys and they called and asked, so I thought it was a great opportunity,” he said. “It helped kind of knowing some guys so you weren’t going in here cold and worrying about if I will be able to play well with people. The experience was fun. I liked it a lot.”
Other Pittsburgh-area players on Team Ohio’s roster were: Garner Kraemer (Serra Catholic), Tyler Speis (Serra Catholic), Josh Singley (Greater Latrobe), Cody Black (North Allegheny), Harry Kramer (North Allegheny), Andrew Schmitt (Upper St. Clair), Lucas Chiala (Franklin Regional) and Mardirossian (Gateway).