Quaker Valley finishes as Penguins Cup runner-up

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Monday, March 26, 2018 | 11:00 PM


Quaker Valley's thrilling run through the PIHL Penguins Cup Class 2A playoffs came to a halt in the championship game.

Armstrong scored three power-play goals and beat the Quakers, 5-0, to claim the championship.

“I think all the penalty kills got us tired,” Quaker Valley senior defenseman Ben Kuzma said.

“We lost our offensive punch a little. We were trying to play catch-up. The power-play goals for them didn't help, but I think our guys gave it our all and I have no regrets.”

The loss snapped a wild postseason ride for Quaker Valley, which finished the regular season 9-10. Injuries and absences plagued the team all season, especially in the second half. However, the Quakers were as close to full strength as they had been all season once the postseason started.

It showed.

Quaker Valley blew a two-goal lead to Shaler in the third period but rallied for a 4-3 overtime win to open postseason play. Daniel Fagan's goal 1 minute, 37 seconds into the extra session clinched the victory. The Quakers stunned second-seeded Latrobe, 1-0, in overtime in the quarterfinals. Beau Tomczak provided a goal 2:20 into OT.

The defensive effort remained intense in a 3-1 decision over Pine-Richland in the semifinals. Tomczak and Kuzma gave Quaker Valley a 2-0 lead, and Fagan iced the win with a goal 39 seconds after the Rams scored late in the third period.

Things started off well against high-powered Armstrong as the Quakers' Philip Gagne shut out the River Hawks in the first period, and the team started to control play. However, a penalty late in the first period and four more throughout the second period cost them. Armstrong scored a pair of power-play goals and added a regular-strength tally for a 3-0 lead.

“We had five straight penalties. I think we had maybe half the penalty minutes they had during the regular season, but it certainly wasn't called that way. We took inopportune times to try to protect our goalie. We had one goalie, and I told our guys we had to protect him,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “The reality is, your best players are out there for an extended time killing penalties and they were exhausted.

“We needed to finish one or two of those early chances. We certainly could've used some calls our way, which was not going to happen with the way the game went,” he continued. “It was just a snowball effect. We tried different things, but their goalie was playing great. We hit the crossbar a couple times. We just couldn't finish those pucks around the net. Up until late in the game, it was 3-0 and we were trying to keep them three or under and hopefully we could score some goals, but we weren't able to do that. We just ran out of gas.

“A month ago, nobody would have thought we'd be in the Penguins Cup being a below-.500 team. We found a way to get here.”

While the Quakers' lineup was in flux all season, they were happy to get almost everyone back for the playoffs, including Tomczak. He led the squad with three goals and five points in the postseason.

“With our season being kind of an unfortunate one at 9-10, all of our seniors have always had success throughout and we've always played hard and we knew we had the skill to do it,” Kuzma said. “This is how we were supposed to play the whole season. It felt good to finally put that into play. A lot of people stepped up and played to their potential. We have no regrets about anything this year.”

Quaker Valley, which finished 12-11, graduates an experienced and talented senior group that helped lead the transition to Class 2A in 2015.

“We haven't shied away from the challenges that have been put in front of us. When you're playing up like we have the past three years, it's a chore. We do what we can to compete. Losing these seniors is tough for us. Knowing this league, they'll bump us to triple-A after losing all these seniors. It's a never-ending challenge they are throwing at us. We deal with it the best we can,” Quinn said. “But, we have a nice, young group coming up. We'll spend some time getting back to work in the spring and summer. That's the only way we can compete with some of these big schools — we have to spend a lot of time training and doing skill work to make the kids better and better.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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