Quaker Valley faces challenge from Kittanning at Outdoor Charity Series
For the first 20 games of the season, the Quaker Valley hockey team was unbeaten and looked all but unbeatable.
The Quakers headed into Friday's PIHL Outdoor Charity Series game against Kittanning having outscored their opponents 164-17. Their closest margin of victory on the season was three goals.
Friday's game looked different, but the result was ultimately the same.
Senior Ryan Dickson scored a goal 2:16 into overtime to lift Quaker Valley (21-0) to a 3-2 victory over Kittanning at the outdoor rink at North Park.
“It was an exciting game, to play outdoors and for a good cause (raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation),” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “For us, I think it was a much-needed challenge, knowing that we had to score a game-winning goal and handle a little bit of adversity.”
Quaker Valley played in the Outdoor Charity Series game for the second straight year and the third in the past four.
“It was really fun to play outside,” said Dickson, who scored two goals. “It was perfect conditions, and other than the fact that the rink was huge, it was a perfect night.”
But the game was almost memorable for the wrong reason.
Quaker Valley controlled the tempo of the game, firing 66 shots at Kittanning goalie Cameron Langham. However, the Wildcats' netminder stopped 63 of those shots, including all 17 he faced in a scoreless first period.
“Just time after time, he either made a good save or we missed the net,” said Clayton Bouchard, who had two assists. “It gets pretty frustrating, especially on that type of ice, where the ice is the biggest ice I've ever played on. You get tired more often, and that just comes with more frustration.”
Junior Otto Schaefer broke the scoreless tie with a goal 1:45 into the second period, but Kittanning tied it at 9:33 with a goal from Cody Toy.
The Quakers retook the lead when Dickson scored his first goal of the game 59 seconds after Toy's tally, but Kittanning's Christian Miller tied the game again in the third period.
That set the stage for Dickson's overtime winner.
Defenseman Nathan Weil passed the puck up the ice to junior Jimmy Perkins, who dropped it off to Dickson. Dickson's shot deflected off Langham and went into the net.
“There was barely any lighting, so any shot has a chance at going in,” Dickson said. “ … It kind of caught me by surprise that it actually went in, but it was a great feeling.”
Bouchard and Dickson said Friday night's close call was actually a few games in the making.
The Quakers officially wrapped up the No. 1 seed for the playoffs with a 6-3 win over Serra Catholic on Feb. 14, but Dickson said the players started thinking ahead to the playoffs and about finishing the regular season undefeated.
He said the game against Kittanning should serve as a much-needed wake-up call before the playoffs begin.
“I think we needed to just snap back to reality and just (realize) that we can actually lose a game,” Dickson said. “As soon as we get to the playoffs, it's one and done. I'd rather lose a game in the regular season than lose one in the playoffs.”
Dickson said while the players aren't focusing on an undefeated regular season, the thought of it does cross his mind from time to time.
However, he said Quinn reminds the team of its predecessor from 2006-07, which finished the regular season undefeated before losing to Freeport in the Penguins Cup championship game at Mellon Arena.
Quaker Valley will finish this regular season with another matchup against Kittanning at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Belmont Ice Complex.
“I know I definitely am (excited to play Kittanning again), and I'm pretty sure the team is,” Bouchard said. “We were all a little disappointed by how we played and how we performed. We just want to go out (and) show the league, show ourselves, show our coaches what we're really capable of when we play at our best.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.