Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 7:46 PM
Fox Chapel and Kiski Area had different journeys during the PIHL Class A playoffs but wound up at the same destination. They will face off Monday night to see which program will lift its first Penguins Cup.
Top-seeded Fox Chapel (20-2) advanced to the championship after knocking off Norwin, the defending Penguins Cup champion, 7-3. Kiski Area (18-5), the No. 4 seed from the Blue Division, beat Greensburg Salem, 3-1, in the semifinals.
The Foxes and Cavaliers are scheduled to play at 8:45 p.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. In the regular season, Fox Chapel beat Kiski Area in both meetings by a combined score of 15-4.
“I’m really proud of this group with the hard work they’ve put in so far,” Fox Chapel coach Cam Raidna said. “Even from last year, they took what we learned from last year and used it as motivation going into this year.
“We aren’t taking Kiski lightly. Kiski always gives us a great game. It’s always tough to play against them. We need to make sure we’re ready to go and use the same motivation that we’ve been using and the same work ethic we’ve still been using.”
The Foxes beat Quaker Valley, 5-3, in the quarterfinals March 9.
Liam Wiseman has six points in the playoffs (five goals and one assist). Wiseman recorded a hat trick in the semifinal win over Norwin as he scored an even-strength, power-play and short-handed goal.
In both playoff games, Fox Chapel finished strong, outscoring its opponents 7-1 in the third period. The Foxes trailed by a goal heading into the third against Quaker Valley and scored three unanswered. In the semifinals, Fox Chapel led by only a goal but outscored Norwin, 4-1, in the final period, including a pair of Wiseman goals.
“When you have a good third period like that, you hope that momentum gets taken into the next game,” Raidna said. “When the pressure is on, we tend to play our best hockey, which is why our third periods tend to be a little stronger. We have to play every period like it’s the third period.”
Goalie Joe Rattner made 13 saves in the win over Quaker Valley and 16 saves in the win over Norwin.
The Cavaliers had to play an extra game to reach the championship.
Kiski Area beat Avonworth, 4-3, in the play-in round Feb. 28, rallying from behind twice. The Cavaliers trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before Kyle Guido’s short-handed goal tied the score. Ethan George provided the winner.
In the quarterfinals, the Cavaliers beat North Hills, the No. 1 seed from the Gold Division, 3-2.
George has led the Cavaliers offensively during the playoffs with six points (four goals, two assists). George scored all three goals in the semifinal win over Greensburg Salem. Guido has five points in the playoffs (two goals, three assists).
Evin Brice, who has allowed only six goals during the postseason, has made critical saves during the Cavaliers’ playoff run. Brice had 21 saves in the win over Greensburg Salem, 24 against Avonworth and 27 against North Hills.
Mason Heiiniger recorded nine points in the playoffs for the Foxes (three goals and six assists). Danny Downey has four goals and an assist, and Wiseman added two goals and two assists. Killian Kissane has five points (two goals, three assists).
“The experience you can take from playing them is something you can learn from,” Rainda said. “But, at the same time, it’s the playoffs. It’s the championship, so anything can happen and the game needs to be played. Anything that happened in the regular season can be thrown out the window. You need to be ready for one game, winner takes all.”
Fox Chapel could take a lesson from Greensburg Salem, which also beat Kiski Area twice in the regular season — by a combined score of 12-3 — before losing to the Cavs in the playoffs.
“At the beginning of the season, they were playing like individuals,” Cavaliers coach Mark Hastings said. “They know what they have to do. They know they need to play more as a team and move the puck more.”
This is foreign territory for both programs, but Raidna hopes his team takes a second to take in the moment before the puck drops.
“It’s an awesome thing these kids get to experience that not a lot of players get to experience in high school. I hope we take a moment to enjoy the moment but then we get right down to business and play hockey,” Raidna said.
Tags: Deer Lakes, Fox Chapel