Freeport goalie key in final
Freeport junior goaltender Tim Zahumensky missed his team's only meeting with Quaker Valley this season.
Nursing a hamstring injury, he watched in frustration as the Quakers rocked the Yellowjackets, 11-0, on Dec. 21.
Zahumensky is healthy again, and he plans to help stifle Quaker Valley's high-powered offense when the teams meet again in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class A championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Mellon Arena.
Zahumensky could be the hidden ace Freeport needs to trump the defending state champions.
“That game was not indicative of how competitive Saturday's game will be,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “(Zahumensky) is clearly a difference maker.”
Also absent from the first game against Quaker Valley were defenseman Zach Hepler, a three-time PIHL all-star, and forward Beau Zack, the team's leading goal scorer.
But Zahumensky could be the player whose participation has the greatest impact.
Jeremy Hepler, Zach's younger brother and a standout defenseman, played his only game at goaltender against Quaker Valley. He will man his usual position this time around.
Zahumensky entered the PIHL playoffs with a 2.20 goals-against average and has been even better in the postseason, surrendering only one goal in each of two playoff games.
But Zahumensky knows it will be tough to shut down Quaker Valley by himself. The Quakers have outscored opponents, 164-23, while Freeport has topped its foes, 129-55.
Zahumensky expressed confidence in the defensive abilities of his team and the give-and-take he has built with his defensemen. Together, they weathered some difficult defensive situations in a 3-1 win over Mars in Monday's semifinals.
“It's definitely going to take teamwork and commitment,” Zahumensky said. “We can't rely on one or two guys. We need a huge team effort. That's the key to this weekend.”
Freeport's defense is a family affair. The Hepler brothers and the McQueen brothers — Braden and Wyatt — log most of the time as blueliners.
Nate King also is a regular defenseman.
King's brother, Zach, also is on the team, but he is a starting forward.
That gives Freeport three brother duos out of 14 players.