CORAOPOLIS, Pa. - Wheeling Park's wheels fell off Monday night.
Ford City ended the Patriots' strong postseason run with a 9-4 victory in the PIHL Open Cup championship at Robert Morris University's Island Sports Center.
The Sabers (21-2-1) never trailed in the contest, but the Patriots (19-5) had several early opportunities to get on the scoreboard.
"They are a very good team and they have a lot of weapons. They did a good job. They deserve a good championship," Park coach Brian Syrylo said. "It seemed like any time we got any momentum, we found a post or missed a breakaway and it just kind of deflated us a bit. It made it tougher to get back into the game not being able to get the momentum when it was there."
Josh Oliver slammed in a rebound to put Ford City ahead 4:57 into the contest. Ford City went ahead, 2-0, on Jesse Valasek's first goal of the evening at 9:11.
The Patriots cut the deficit in half, 2-1, with 6:18 left in the period on Mike Grove's first goal.
The Sabers regained a two-goal lead 1:21 into the second period when Eric Lindey found the back of the net on a delayed penalty.
Grove brought Wheeling Park within 3-2 with 4:02 left in the second with a 4-on-4 goal. He skated across the slot and fired a wrister inside the back post.
The Patriots killed off a late penalty, but Valasek connected with 29 seconds left on the clock. Stealthily situated at the back post, he chipped a pass into the goal for the 4-2 advantage.
"They really move the puck well in the offensive zone," Syrylo said. "We had a hard time just keeping ourselves from chasing and it allowed a lot of good shooting opportunities."
Oliver scored 40 seconds into the third to give Ford City a commanding 5-2 lead.
Lindey wristed a shot from the slot to increase the Sabers' advantage to 6-2 with 13:44 remaining.
Luke Gross snapped a power-play goal with 7:15 left to push Ford City's lead to 7-2.
Ian McArdle's blast from the near circle sailed into the net with 6:23 to go to make it a 7-3 game.
Grove completed the hat-trick with 5:19 to play to trim the deficit to 7-4.
However, Gross answered 44 seconds later with his second goal and Bobby Kinsey capped the scoring with 1:46 to go.
Park, which dressed 11 skaters, graduates six seniors from its roster - Derek Smith, Morgan Smith, Nicco Catalano, Zacc Coleman, Porter Knollinger and McArdle.
"I don't think we'll be completely rebuilding, but we'll have some holes to fill, for sure," Syrylo said.