Bishop Canevin's veteran goalie ready to leave a legacy
During the last two seasons, Nikita Meskin has been a force in front of the net for Bishop Canevin as he compiled a 23-7-2 record as a starter while helping the Crusaders grab a section crown and back-to-back Penguins Cup playoff appearances.
So it comes as a shock as the senior described himself as clumsy.
“It is kind of ironic because I am a goalie,” Meskin said. “I have god-awful puck-handling skills, so I am trying to improve on that. I need to improve my hand-eye coordination.”
If Meskin can improve his game in any way, it will mean good things for Bishop Canevin.
Meskin was born in Russia and moved to the United State at 6 years old. He has been playing hockey since he was 3 and made the switch to goalie seven years ago after being inspired at his first Penguins game.
“I saw Marc-Andre Fleury and his yellow pads,” Meskin said. “I fell in love with the idea of wearing pads. I have wanted to be a goalie ever since.”
Meskin debuted in the 2011-12 season and showed a flair for the position. He finished with 293 saves and allowed 45 goals that season. As a junior, he dropped to 287 saves but only allowed 25 goals. Between the two seasons, his save percentage spiked from 86 to 92.
“His experience is just one of his attributes you can point to,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Zielmanski said. “He is a big kid that covers a lot of next and has great reflexes. He is able to use his glove.
“And he remains pretty calm back there. He doesn't seem to get hyped up before the game and stays focused on what he needs to do.”
Bishop Canevin got its first win of the season last week as it defeated West Allegheny, 5-2.
The Crusaders allowed two first-period goals, including a power-play score. But over the final two periods, the team clamped down as Randy Unger finished with two goals and Blaine Adams, Ross Langford and Thomas Krivak accounted for goals.
Meskin finished with 28 saves.
As good as Meskin is, the Crusaders will be skating on thin ice this season. The team has typically has 20 players but is in a down year.
The loss of players has Bishop Canevin relying on one goalie.
“We don't have a plan B,” Zielmanski said. “Plan B is to play 6-on-5. We have to hope for the best.”
While Meskin does not play hockey for any other teams, Zielmanski is concerned over the typical things that can happen to a high schooler — illness or perhaps injury if someone happens to fall on him during a game.
“It is pressure but positive pressure, in a sense,” Meskin said. “It motivates me to work twice as hard. I know I have to help carry the team on defense. If I get injured, the team will be in a rut. I know I have to be safe and play the best I can.”
If Meskin can play to the top of his game and avoid injury, the Crusaders could be in contention for a Class AA Penguins Cup. After winning the title in 2011, Bishop Canevin has fallen short the last two seasons — including an overtime loss in the semifinals last year.
A 1-2 playoff record is the only blemish on Meskin's impressive career, and the senior is ready to change that and leave a lasting legacy with Bishop Canevin.
“We want to go as far as possible,” Meskin said. “For all of us seniors to come so close and have it slip through our hands, it gives us extra motivation. We want to lead the team to the Penguins Cup.
“We want set a good example for the freshmen and underclassmen to be the best seniors they can be.”
Bishop Canevin returns to the ice tonight, Thursday, as it hosts North Hills at the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center. The puck drops at 9:10 p.m.