Goaltenders excel as Kittanning and Freeport skate to 1-1 tie
Few current PIHL Class A goaltenders possess better credentials than Kittanning senior Cameron Langham, a third-year starter whose career save percentage hovers right around 90.
On Thursday night at the Belmont Complex, Langham looked across the rink at a netminder whose resume might one day resemble the Kittanning senior's.
In his first varsity start, Freeport freshman Matt Huston stood as solid as Langham, and held Kittanning (2-1-1) more than six goals below its average in a 1-1 tie. Huston finished with 30 saves for the Yellowjackets (1-0-1), while Langham had 34.
“I was a little bit tense,” Huston said. “You go into the game keeping yourself ready and confident, but no, I wasn't expecting that.”
Kittanning put 18 shots on net in the first period, but Huston held strong. Most notably, he stuck a left leg out to deny Class A's goal- and point-leader, sophomore Christian Miller, on a breakaway with 4:26 remaining.
Langham also stopped several Freeport scoring chances, including using his blocker to knock down a rising wrist shot from Tyler Sherrieb.
“I'm sure Freeport feels the same way, but we felt like we played well enough to win,” Kittanning coach Jamie King said. “We played really well in the corners, played good team defense, got a ton of shots. It's just, we didn't get rewarded for it tonight.”
Three power plays for Kittanning in the first period and two in the second for Freeport failed to break a scoreless tie. Neither team scored during an odd-man situation — the Yellowjackets were 0 for 5 on the power play and the Wildcats were 0 for 4.
“I'd liked to have seen us have a little more offense,” Freeport coach Dave Hepler said. “To me, there wasn't much flow to the game.”
Nicholas Rusak gave Freeport a 1-0 lead with 3:32 left in the second period when he positioned himself at the top of the crease, received Devin Christy's dish from behind the net and slipped a shot by Langham.
Hunter Grafton answered for Kittanning eight seconds later, though. Off the faceoff, Christian Miller found Grafton, who streaked into the offensive zone and fired a shot over Huston's shoulder.
Langham and Huston resumed their stifling ways in the third period and overtime.
“Excellent second-rebound saves and reaction saves ... you can't ask more from a goalie than what he did tonight,” Hepler said of Huston.
The last breakaway drama of the game belonged to Langham as he poked a puck away from Cole Hepler with 15 seconds left in overtime.
“It was really a goalie battle,” King said. “I'm not disappointed in really anything about our game other than the fact that we tied.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.