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Big second period lifts Kittanning over Hampton

Any lingering doubts about the Kittanning hockey team's readiness for the postseason disappeared with the Wildcats' 9-1 win over Hampton on Thursday night at the Belmont Complex.

Kittanning (11-5-1) blew out its second top-tier Class A opponent in as many weeks. The Wildcats used a five-goal second period to bury Hampton (10-4-2), which entered the game with a two-game win streak over Kittanning that stretched back to last season's Penguins Cup semifinal.

"I think you're always surprised when you play a good team and that ends up being the final score," said Kittanning coach Jamie King, whose Wildcats throttled Westmont Hilltop (8-6-3) by seven goals Feb. 16. "A lot of times, though, hockey is a lot of momentum, and once you get up a couple...that kind of makes the game a little different."

Kittanning senior Heinz Koster, Class A's points and goals leader, continued his season-long tear with two goals in the first period. Koster finished with a hat trick and two assists, which meant he only slightly improved his 4.38-points-per-game average.

The Wildcats led, 2-0, when Hampton capitalized on a power play opportunity to score the Talbots' only goal with 3:19 left in the opening period. Joe Vita, positioned in front of the crease, redirected a shot from the point, and the puck snuck by goaltender Cameron Langham, who finished with 18 saves.

Neither team put many shots on net. Hampton managed 19, while Kittanning had 20. But the Wildcats figured out goaltender Cam Radna, who was beat by five shots in a row during a streak that spanned the second and third periods.

"We'd prefer tons of shots," King said, "but hey, if they're going in ..."

Koster and sophomore Hunter Grafton kept the goals coming. Grafton, who also had five points, scored all three of his goals in less than five minutes during the second period.

"When you play Hampton, you can't help but feel a little excited," Grafton said. "I think the nerves got to me at the beginning, but when the game progressed, we played as a team, and it was a great game."

Christian Miller, Jacob Snyder and Hunter Anthony also scored for Kittanning. Miller logged three points, and Mike Kelly had a two-assist effort.

"I think that's the first time we played together as a full team for a full game," Grafton said. "I think our morale is really high right now, coming off two big games, and I don't see why we can't carry this into the playoffs."

Kittanning has won six games in a row and outscored opponents, 60-6, during that stretch. The Wildcats are in fourth place in the standings, while Hampton sits in third. Both teams have two games left in the regular season.

"They had our number last year," said King, whose team lost two of three to Hampton one season ago. "And they played really well against us in the first game (this season, a 6-3 win for the Talbots). So it is nice to get that little bit of a monkey off our back. But I think it's more that we want to play well at the right time of the year. We're on a nice streak right now. I think it's how we want to play going into the playoffs. We hope that this is a game that we can keep building on."

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