Kittanning hockey gets another shot at Quaker Valley
If Kittanning is to reach the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup final, it'll need to accomplish what no team has since 2011: defeat Quaker Valley.
The two sides meet in the Penguins Cup semifinals at Robert Morris Island Sports Center on Monday at 8 p.m. The winner advances to the Penguins Cup finals March 20.
The undefeated, top-seeded Quakers last lost Nov. 3, 2011, 3-2, to rival Mars. Since then, they have gone 39-0-1 in regular season play — including a 22-0 mark this season — and captured the 2012 Penguins Cup and PA Cup in impressive fashion.
That 2012 postseason run included a 7-1 win over Kittanning the semifinals. So if anyone knows how difficult a task faces the No. 6 Wildcats, it is the Wildcats themselves.
“They're a good team; they're a very good team,” Kittanning coach Jamie King said. “Somebody's going to have to play their best to beat them.”
Kittanning came close in its last two shots at the Quakers, losing 3-2 in overtime Feb 22. and 5-2 Feb. 28. To put that into perspective: Quaker Valley beat teams by an average score of 7.8 to 0.9.
Still it was easy to see that play favored the shot-happy Quakers, who out-shot Kittanning, 109-42, over the two games.
“They shoot a ton,” King said. “But it wasn't like — you think ‘Oh my God we were never out of our end.' We had a lot of good chances, too.”
While the story for Kittanning much of the season has been the offensive display by underclassman forwards Christian Miller and Hunter Grafton — who sat 1-2 atop the Class A scoring charts with 82 and 81 points, respectively — it could be senior goaltender Cameron Langham upon whom the Wildcats rely most.
In the first of their two regular season games against Quaker Valley, Langham made an eye-popping 63 saves on 66 shots. Most recently, in the Penguins Cup quarterfinals against No. 3 Freeport, he stopped 23 of 25 shots in the 5-2 victory.
“Cam's very good,” King said. “But, you know, we expect that out of him.”
Where as Kittanning actually may have the best three players on the ice, it is Quaker Valley's depth and stingy defense that separates it from the pack.
Defensively, the Quakers surrendered 21 goals in 22 games. Mars had the second-stingiest defense with 43 goals against. Kittanning sat fourth with 65 goals against.
The Quakers boast five players who scored more than 50 points — easily tops in Class A. Kittanning and Serra Catholic were second, each with two players reaching the 50-point plateau.
“The first team that commits to defense is going to beat them. That's the first thing,” Miller said. “You've got to commit to team defense first and then offense.”