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Mars knocks off Serra behind goalie Knapp

| Thursday, March 7, 2013, 12:06 a.m.
Serra Catholic's Jonthan Henschel moves the puck down ice against Mars during the PIHL playoffs at Blade Runners in Warrendale on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. Ronald Vezzani Jr./Daily News
Mars Nick Makozy moves the puck down ice while Serra defender Thomas Werner chases during PIHL playoff action on Wednesday at Blade Runners in Warrendale. Ronald Vezzani Jr./Daily News

After losing two early season games to Mars within a span of two weeks, Serra Catholic hockey coach Brian Boehm was expecting something much different when the two teams met in the Penguins Cup quarterfinals.

Unfortunately for Boehm, he did get something different: goalie Christian Knapp.

Knapp missed the first two meetings against Serra with a concussion but made up for lost time in a hurry.

Knapp turned away 27 shots, including seven point-blank chances by the Eagles during a pivotal second-period span of a two-man advantage and a power play, to propel Mars (18-2) into the quarterfinals with a misleading 8-2 win at Blade Runners in Warrendale. The loss ended Boehm's seven-year stint as Serra's coach.

Boehm officially resigned following the game. He recently moved to West Virginia because of his wife's job.

“It's real hard,” Boehm said. “It's time. This club needs that young guy who is really going to come in and build to what we did. I never wanted to leave. I envisioned myself here 20 years.”

Boehm wished it would've ended on more of a positive note.

“The one thing I told them is that they owe me two things: hard work and do it with honor,” Boehm said. “That's all I ever asked of them, and they did it. We were in some tough situations being short-handed a lot, but they kept fighting.”

Tyler Speis and Jon Henschel both scored for Serra (12-12) while freshman goalie Chen Pesecreta was bombarded with 47 shots.

“Our goal was to come out here and jump on them early,” Mars coach Steve Meyers said. “We knew they had a young goalie, and we didn't know what to expect. We wanted to get a lot of pucks at him and a lot of traffic around him.”

Nick Berteotti scored three times and had four points, while Nick Makozy had a pair of goals and an assist. Mars, which will play either Freeport or Westmont-Hilltop, had four power play goals, including three while on the two-man advantage.

But the difference in the game was Knapp, who is playing through a fractured ankle and ligament damage that he plans to have fixed during the offseason.

“Christian Knapp was unbelievable out there killing those penalties,” Boehm said. “Your best penalty killers are always your goalies, and that's what he was out there.”

Knapp was at his best when his team was a man down … or two.

With Mars leading 2-0 on goals by Kyle Thomas in the first and Bertotti early in the second, the Planets found themselves in a 5-on-3 for 1:45 after penalties by Thomas and Ian Houk-Graves.

Knapp turned away four point-blank shots to keep Serra off the board.

“I was in the zone,” Knapp said. “Once you get a couple shots on the power play you really start to get in the groove. During that 5-on-3 is when I hit my stride.”

After stopping Werner moments after with a glove save on a rising backhand from 5 feet, Knapp found himself faced with another penalty kill. This time Knapp turned away three good scoring chances to keep Serra off the board.

Mars answered quickly following the penalties as Houk-Graves cleared the puck as the penalty expired where Berteotti grabbed it out of the air at the blue line and backhanded it past Pesecreta for a 3-0 lead.

“We had a rough second period, and we kind of fell into some of their traps,” Meyers said. “He made a number of huge saves for us.”

Less than a minute left in the period, Makozy banged in a rebound from Pesecreta for a 4-0 Mars lead.

Serra adverted being shut out when Henschel scored on a power play with 7:43 left in the game, but Mars answered with four power play goals — two of which were 5-on-3 — in a span of just under four minutes.

“We didn't want it to end like this, but I am proud of these kids,” Boehm said. “I know they will keep this program running at a high level when I am gone.

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