Kittanning falls short again against Quaker Valley hockey team
Kittanning, for the third time in an 18-day span, played undefeated Quaker Valley as well as anybody had all season.
The No. 6 seed Wildcats had the advantage in shots on goal. They skated and forechecked, generated quality scoring chances and drew penalties. And they mostly contained a potent Quakers offense that averages almost eight goals.
But it wasn't enough to get Kittanning past the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup semifinals.
Ryan Dickson scored twice, and Parker Sherry made 28 saves in No. 1 Quaker Valley's 4-1 semifinal win over the Wildcats at RMU's Island Sports Center on Monday.
“They're such a good team that we knew coming in that it was going to take an absolutely perfect game to beat them,” Kittanning coach Jamie King said. “And I'll be honest with you: We were pretty darn close.”
Not close enough, though, to avoid a loss that marks the fourth consecutive year Kittanning (14-9-1) came one win short of playing in a Penguins Cup championship game. Instead, Quaker Valley (24-0) advanced to Consol Energy Center for the title game for the second straight year.
“Yeah, a lot of teams would love to make it this far, but you want to win,” said senior goalie Cameron Langham, who helped keep the Wildcats in the game with a handful of solid saves. “When you lose all four years, it's just like, ahhhh, that (stinks).”
Kittanning's Hunter Grafton scored with 1:37 left to break up the shutout.
Jimmy Perkins and Clayton Bouchard also scored, and Connor Quinn had three assists for the Quakers, the defending state champions who extended their unbeaten streak in PIHL games to 44.
Quaker Valley hasn't lost a PIHL game since Nov. 3, 2011. But since, the Wildcats have repeatedly pushed the Quakers to the limit. No other team stayed within three goals of the Quakers this season. Kittanning has played Quaker Valley to within three goals three times in the past 18 days.
Only two of Quaker Valley's 45 wins over the past two seasons have been by one goal. Both times, it was against Kittanning. The Wildcats also were the only team to force overtime against the Quakers this season.
“Clearly, they've concentrated on defense better than they did last year, and it also helps to have a really quality goalie back there,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said of Kittanning. “(Langham is) tough to beat. We had numerous chances, and he was solid. You're just not going to get a large goal differential against a goalie like that.”
The problem Monday for the Wildcats was that Langham's counterpart, Sherry, was as good — if not better.
“On the way down, we were saying: ‘Look, we need to get the first goal. It'd be such a big bonus, make them play from behind. Maybe get one, and who knows what happens? Maybe you get the next one,' ” King said. “I thought we had a really good first period, but we just couldn't get that one. The second period, we were fine, too. But then, you're down, 3-0. That's just what seems to happen against them.”
Bouchard's power-play goal 4:45 into the second period gave the Quakers a 2-0 lead, and Dickson gave them a three-goal cushion less than three minutes later.
Sixty-one seconds after Dickson's second goal of the game made the score 4-0, Grafton scored for the 26th time this season and second in as many playoff games.
“I don't fault our kids; they gave quite an effort tonight,” King said. “We're pretty proud of them. It's always tough. The hardest part is, as of right now, you don't coach these seniors anymore.”