Chartiers Valley hockey skates past Moon in Penguins Cup quarterfinals
Chartiers Valley defenseman Sean Brkovich has felt disrespected this season.
The Colts came into the season with their sights set high, feeling they could compete for a Penguins Cup and the state title.
But whenever Brkovich would read a story about the team, it seemed to downplay the team's chances after losing forward Justin Sabilla and his 58 goals to graduation.
“A lot of the articles didn't make it sound like we could do it,” the senior said. “Obviously, Sabilla was a big player for us last year. But reading those made me angry, because it made people think we were not capable of getting here. But we have proven them wrong. We are a dangerous team right now.”
The Colts took another step forward in getting the respect they deserve as they defeated Moon, 4-1, in the PHIL Class AA Penguins Cup quarterfinals last week.
Chartiers Valley jumped ahead early thanks to the play of Cullen McMahon. The junior forward, who finished the regular season with 40 goals, showcased his puck-handling skills on the team's first goal with 7:16 left in the first period and added a second just more than four minutes later to give his team a two-goal advantage after one period.
McMahon completed the hat trick at the 13:23 mark of the second frame. McMahon pushed down the ice on a breakaway and sent it into goalie J.T. Cillo-Owens, who initially seemed to make the save. But the puck drifted between his legs and into the goal.
Trevor Handlovitch opened Moon's scoring with second-chance goal at 9:32. But the Colts responded late in a 4-on-4.
Chartiers Valley was on the attack during the final seconds of the period when Anthony Franks sent the puck into the back of the net with less than a second on the clock.
“The coaching staff was upset with some of the penalty calls in the second period,” Chartiers Valley coach Sean Biancaniello said. “The best response we could have was to bury one at the end of the period. That goal by Franks was the response I wanted. You could tell it took the wind out of (Moon's) sails.”
McMahon led the team with four points. Kevin Kocak added two assists, and Brkovich added another.
Chartiers Valley was strong on penalty kills, holding the Tigers scoreless on five power-play opportunities. Biancaniello credited the veteran presence of senior goalie Noah Stevenson for that.
“(Stevenson) is the best penalty killer we have,” Biancaniello said. “We fell victim to some stupid penalties, which is something we have focused on not doing. We came in tonight with our penalty killing clicking at over 90 percent.”
The Colts anticipated a battle despite beating the Tigers twice earlier this season. Chartiers Valley defeated Moon, 6-4, on Nov. 29 on the road then again Jan. 8 at the Penguins Pond by a score of 9-2.
“They gave us a run for our money the first time we played them,” senior forward Robert Ferrari said. “We knew we couldn't take them lightly, because they were the only team to beat Bishop Canevin during the regular season.
“But we knew if we played our hardest, we can beat any team in the league.”
The Colts rode a 4-1 streak into the postseason. While the team suffered a 4-0 loss to Bishop Canevin late in the season, the setback could be a blessing in disguise.
“I think we went into the playoffs with an 8-0 streak last season, and we lost in the semifinals,” Ferrari said. “It was good to get the loss out of the way during the regular season. We were able to get our heads back in it.”
With only a game between the Colts and the Penguin Cup championship game at Consol Energy Center, the team is focused on winning its first Penguins Cup since 1986.
Chartiers Valley has reached the semifinals the past two seasons but was unable to take the next step. It is not something the players — especially the seniors — will forget.
“Losing is not an option,” Brkovich said. “I have been thinking about it since we were accepted to the playoffs. I cannot lose in the semifinals again. I don't think I could emotionally, mentally or physically do that.”
Chartiers Valley faced Latrobe on Tuesday. Results were unavailable at press time.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5813 or at email@example.com.