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Bishop Canevin hockey's expectations high heading into season

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted | Dawn Derbyshire
Nikita Meskin has been the starting goalie for Bishop Canevin since the 2011-12 season.
Submitted photo | Dawn Derbyshire
Blaine Adams and the Bishop Canevin hockey team went 16-1-2 during the regular season in 2012-13.
File photo
Liam Walsh scored 44 points for the Bishop Canevin hockey team as a freshman.

The Bishop Canevin hockey team knows the highs and lows of the Penguins Cup playoffs.

The Crusaders – who won the Class AA cup in 2011 – went into the playoffs last season as the top seed with a 16-1-2 mark. But in the quarterfinals, Pine-Richland eliminated Bishop Canevin, 3-2, in overtime with a controversial goal that was scored with the net coming off its moorings.

“We didn't like ending the season that way” senior forward and alternate captain Garrett Godlewski said. “It is serving as motivation to not let it get to that point. We have to finish off games strong and not let something like that happen again.”

The Crusaders will use a mix of returning veterans and emerging underclassmen as it searches for its seventh Penguins Cup.

Bishop Canevin's greatest strength could possibly be a glaring weakness. The team returns senior goalie Nikita Meskin, who has started the last two seasons – and made 580 saves along the way.

“He is one of the most successful goalies in the league,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Zielmanski said. “He is a big kid who moves his legs well and has a good glove. It is a confidence boost to have him.”

But as strong as the team is with Meskin, low numbers in the program have led to the Crusaders not having a backup goaltender.

Defenseman and captain Brennan Adams should help relieve some of the stress placed on Meskin. The senior has been paired with freshman Patrick Bane to help break the youngster into varsity hockey.

The duo of Jason Bilski and Nicholas Rajakovich got experience last season and should provide depth for the defense. Augustus Peponidis will be a presence on defense when he his amateur hockey team's schedule permits.

The forward on the team gained praised as one of the team's strengths from Zielmanski – despite losing the team's top three point producers to graduation. While it was a team effort to score last season, several players could step into go-to scorer roles this year.

“Most of the guys have the ability to score,” Zielmanski said. “(Godlewski) is back and he does a great job around the net getting his stick on shots for tips and rebounds.”

The offense could go from strong to lethal depending on the playing time it can see from Randy Unger, who also plays at the amateur level. The line of Alex Bosnic, Blaine Adams and freshman Liam Walsh is expected to be dangerous this season. Walsh is the younger brother of alumnus Matt Walsh who scored 60 goals as a senior during the 2011-12 season.

Freshman Jacob Ondrejko is also expected to contribute.

“I think with the addition of some freshmen and players who can put the puck in the net, we should be strong,” Brennan Adams said.

Bishop Canevin won't be able to ease into the season as it welcomes West Allegheny to the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center tonight, Thursday, for a 9:10 start. Monday the Crusaders take on rival Chartiers Valley.

“It will get the players attention,” Zielmanski said. “It will be challenge not just because of who we play but also because we haven't had much time on the ice together. Plus, the games with Chartiers Valley are always interesting in their own right.”

Zielmanski used a motto he used through his coaching career – if the team plays well often enough, it should win a majority of the games – to describe what he wants from his team this season.

His players don't plan to just play well – they want to be the best.

“We want to get back to where we were freshman year and make it back to states,” Godlewski said. “We have to take it one game at a time but I think we have the team to do it.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSMith_Trib.

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