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Westmont Hilltop sends Serra hockey to seventh straight loss

| Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

It has been rare of late, but Serra Catholic had its full hockey team in uniform Thursday night.

It certainly seemed to make a difference for the struggling Eagles, even in a one-goal loss.

Ian Campbell's third-period goal from close range at the 2:29 mark was the difference for Westmont Hilltop in a 3-2 PIHL Class A victory at Ice Garden Arena, extending Serra's losing streak to seven games.

The Eagles (4-11-1) last won Dec. 12, a 7-5 victory over South Fayette. Their current skid began with a 2-0 loss to Westmont Hilltop on Dec. 17.

“This was better,” Serra Catholic coach Dennis Tokarski said with a nod toward the ice. “Everybody played with heart. We had a lot of opportunities to score more goals, and we just couldn't find the net.”

Tokarski and two others — Jonathan Henschel and Jesse Anzelone — sat out Serra's previous game, a 12-1 drubbing by Mars, on suspensions, while the usual handful of players were absent to honor other commitments.

It has hurt Serra's efforts for more consistent play, Tokarski said, adding that most times the absentees are skill-position players.

“The guys feel a lot better about tonight's performance,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

The win over South Fayette is Serra's only victory in the past 12 games after 3-0-1 start, but Tokarski is hopeful the Eagles can clinch a PIHL playoff spot.

They have five games remaining, beginning Thursday against Freeport at Ice Garden Arena. Serra finishes the regular season Feb. 27 against Westmont Hilltop, also at the Rostraver-based facility.

In between, there are games against Deer Lakes, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop McCort.

Westmont Hilltop (10-4-2), which leads the three-team Section 3, also received goals from Austin Crespo, who gave the Hilltoppers a 1-0 first-period lead, and Brandon Leech, who made it 2-0 in the second.

Serra cut the deficit to 2-1 after two periods on Roman Kraemer's breakaway goal at 15:21. Kraemer also scored the Eagles' only goal in the loss to Mars on Monday.

After Campbell's goal gave Westmont Hilltop a 3-1 lead in the third, Jacob Gunn scored at 10:18 of the same period to make it 3-2.

Serra goaltender Ian Ritchie stopped 45 of 48 shots to rebound from Monday's demoralizing loss.

“He took a beating in that last game, but he played rock-solid tonight,” Tokarski said. “He held together well.”

Serra managed 26 shots against Westmont Hilltop goalie Sebastian Ragno.

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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