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TJ ready to take on Quakers for championship

| Saturday, March 15, 2014, 1:27 a.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | for the Tribune Review
Thomas Jefferson's Zach Uhlyar works the puck down the ice against Deer Lakes during a PIHL playoff game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at Blade Runners in Bethel Park.

Zach Uhlyar isn't going to be overwhelmed by Consol Energy Center.

After all, the Thomas Jefferson senior captain has taken a couple of laps around the rink that the Penguins call home before, albeit “after hours” with good friend Austin Lemieux — son of owner Mario Lemieux.

“Maybe once or twice,” Uhlyar said.

Uhlyar won't have to sheepishly talk about the next time he steps on to the ice at Consol, because he will be front and center Monday at 4:30 p.m. when Thomas Jefferson will go for its fourth Penguins Cup championship, but first in 14 years when the Jaguars (17-5-2) play top-seeded and two-time defending Class A champion Quaker Valley (23-1-0).

The winner will take on Flyers Cup champion West Chester Bayard Rustin for the Pennsylvania Cup

“This is what we have been striving for all year,” Uhlyar said. “We've worked hard to get here, and nobody is giving us a chance. That's OK. We will have something for them.”

The Quakers, who are playing in their fourth consecutive championship game, have beaten Thomas Jefferson soundly three times this year and are the last team to defeat the Jaguars. Since TJ fell to QV, 5-4, on Jan. 30, TJ hasn't lost.

“I think it is going to be a pretty good game,” forward Tommy Kimmick said. “We came back against them the last game and made a game of it. We just ran out of time. We felt that we could've won that game.”

TJ lost to Quaker Valley on Nov. 7 (5-2) and Dec. 19 (7-1), and trailed 5-1 to the Quakers on Jan. 30 heading into the third period.

A blunt intermission speech by coach Bill Crousey set the Jaguars on the path to their first championship game in seven years.

“We had a strong third period, but we were bad early in that game,” Crousey said. “In the third period we decided to go out there and play it like it was 0-0.”

TJ scored three goals in two minutes to make it 5-4 before time ran out.

“We may have lost, but that was a key point in our season,” Crousey said.

The only blemish since was a 4-4 tie to Westmont-Hilltop.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

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