Shaler hockey drops opening-round playoff game
Every season, Shaler hockey coach Curt Hetz talks with assistant coach Larry Gallic, and their goal is to take the team they are given and make it as good as it possibly can be.
“We made this team as good as can be, and with a little luck, we would have advanced,” Hetz said.
He was referring to the opening-round PHIL Penguins Cup playoff game, which Hetz said may have been one of the best his team has played all season, though the result was not indicative of the effort.
Shaler jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Upper St. Clair, but a power-play goal surrendered by the Titans jerked the momentum in favor of the Panthers, and the end result was a 3-2 USC victory.
“It was a shame,” Hetz said. “We dominated in shots early and took the 2-0 lead, but we had all kind of opportunities. We could have had them down, 3-0.”
Freshman Austin Martz scored first then assisted on Mike Klena's goal early in the second period.
A late goal on the power play with less than a minute to play in the second gave USC some hope, and the final goal in the game — with less that two minutes to play — was the back-breaker.
“We played very disciplined and only had two penalties,” Hetz said. “With 1:27 left in the game, they opened up a perfect play in the top of the slot and just hit a one-timer.”
Shaler goalie Vince Evans played a good game, according to Hetz, stopping 28 shots.
USC goalie Mike Ambrose faced 38 shots, but Hetz said he is the type of goalie who can come up big.
“I am very proud of this team — I can't complain about the effort,” Hetz said. “They started to buy into what we were teaching, and we won some games nobody thought we could win.
“I think that late goal shook us up,” Hetz said.
The silver lining is the fact Shaler will lose only five seniors, but that group was a huge part of the success this season. Mike Klena, Joe Dorrow, Ryan Fischerkeller, Cam Stott and Matt Bour will be missed, but the returning team is young and hungry.
Freshman Austin Martz was a scoring machine, and Alex Ficorilli stepped up, as well. Braden Harbison is another young player Hetz hopes to have back as part of a young and lethal nucleus.
Hetz played a line straight off the junior varsity team in some big spots.
“I think we will have three decent lines and Vinny and Ian Zacharias back in net,” Hetz said. “Assuming everyone comes back (who can), we will have a lot of young players.”
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.