Courtesy of Elizabethtown Athletic Communications
ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. -- Nick Specht scored five points, including the 100th of his career and top-seeded Elizabethtown withstood a late push from fourth-seeded Scranton to advance to Saturday's Landmark Championship with an 11-9 victory.
The Blue Jays, winners of nine in a row, will meet second-seeded Catholic, which defeated Drew 13-6 Wednesday evening, in a rematch of last year's title game.
Nick Specht, Joe Clark, and Mike Specht had the Blue and Gray going early, providing the only offense of the first quarter as Elizabethtown (13-3) built a 3-0 lead.
A gritty Scranton side that has battled the Jays to two-goal or less outcomes in four of five games since E-town joined the Landmark in 2015, proved to be that again.
Quinn Killeen and Michael Elefonte netted back-to-back unassisted goals in the second quarter to bring the Royals (8-7) back within 3-2, but Clark's second of the game, off a Dan Bednarik pass, with 1:53 left in the half sent the hosts to the break with a two-goal lead.
Phil Kyger and Nick Specht sent shots past Scranton goalie Jeff Sabatini in the third quarter, increasing Elizabethtown's lead to 6-3 after 45 minutes.
The conservative nature of Wednesday's semifinal gave way to a wide-open fourth when the two teams combined for 11 goals.
Joe Hill completed his hat trick with consecutive goals 41 seconds apart to start the final period. Michael Elefonte and Patrick O'Rourke also scored in a 4-1 Scranton run that tied the game at seven with 9:10 remaining.
Nick Specht became the 12th player in program history and second this season --joining twin brother Mike Specht-- to join the 100-point club when he assisted on Kyger's second goal of the game that put the Jays back in front, 8-7, at the 7:30 mark.
E-town would open up a four-goal lead with less than a minute to play. The Blue Jays got a break with less than six minutes left, when the rebound of Cody Larkin's shot was flicked into Scranton's goal by one of its own players as he attempted to scoop it up. Nick Specht added a man-up tally and Clark finished off a hat trick with 57 seconds left to make it 11-7.
Scranton made things interesting in the final half minute while the Jays served a two-minute non-releasable penalty. Elefonte and O'Rourke scored 12 seconds apart to cut the lead to two, but the Royals would get no closer.
The Blue Jays won despite getting outshot 35-31 and losing 20 of 23 face-offs to Adam Drury, who came into the conference tournament ranked in the top five in Division III in face-off win percentage.
Tom Mahoney, the reigning Landmark Defensive Athlete of the Week, made six saves in the fourth quarter and 12 overall to win for the ninth time in 10 starts. Mahoney is just one save away from 100 for the season.
Sabatini was also up to the task for the Royals, stopping 10 shots.
Elizabethtown cleared at nearly 91 percent (20 of 22) and committed 11 less turnovers than their counterparts.
Nick Specht's five points (three goals, two assists) and Joe Clark's three goals led the Jays offensively. Kyger (two goals), Mike Specht (two goals) and Dan Bednarik (two assists) also had multi-point performances for Elizabethtown.
Defensively, Griffin Liebsch shared the team lead with three caused turnovers and five ground balls. Jeremy Klipple and Jon Knapp forced three turnovers apiece, while Nick Specht and Luke Stephens picked up five ground balls each.
Scranton's Hill had just five points in six games this season, but nearly doubled that with four (three goals, one assist) in his team's semifinal loss. Drury hauled in nine ground balls courtesy of his 20 face-off victories.
Elizabethtown will try to win its first conference championship on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Blue Jays appeared in a conference title game for the first time in program history last season, but dropped a heartbreaker to Catholic, 13-12, in overtime.