3rd meeting between Greensburg Salem, Kiski Area hockey teams will determine Class A finalist

Tuesday, March 14, 2023 | 5:33 PM

Greensburg Salem and Kiski Area are no strangers to each other on the ice. The teams will square off for the third time this season Wednesday night, with the winner earning a spot in the Class A Penguins Cup final.

Their semifinal is at 9 p.m. at RMU Island Sports Center.

Greensburg Salem (18-3), the No. 2 seed from the Blue Division, defeated Shaler, 6-3, in the quarterfinals March 9. Owen Tutich recorded a hat trick for the Golden Lions, with two coming in the second period to extend the lead to 6-1.

The Golden Lions defense did a good job in front of goalie Tristan Gonzales, who had to make only 10 saves.

“We just have to play our game,” Greensburg Salem coach Corey Mentch said. “We just have to bring the game that brought us success all year. We do a great job possessing the puck, and we do a good job getting after the puck.”

Kiski Area (17-5), the No. 4 seed from the Blue Division, had to win two games to get to the semifinals.

The Cavaliers beat Avonworth, 4-3, in the play-in round Feb. 28. Kiski Area came back twice in the game. The Cavaliers were down 2-0 less than five minutes into the game. Ethan Brink got the Cavaliers on the board in the first, and Jacob Kraus tied it late in the second period.

Heading into the third, Kiski Area was down a goal, but Kyle Guido tied it up 12 seconds into the third with a short-handed goal. Ethan George scored the eventual winning goal late in the third off an assist from Guido. Goalie Evin Brice had 24 saves.

In the quarterfinals, the Cavaliers beat North Hills, the No. 1 seed from the Gold Division, 3-2. Kiski Area got on board early with a Liam Alexander goal.

With the score tied heading into the third period, Kiski Area took the lead again just over three minutes in after an Ethan Bombalski goal. Guido had an empty-net goal with 57 seconds remaining.

The Cavaliers held strong in the final seconds as the Indians tried to tie the score. Brice had some key saves and finished with 27 for the game.

“At the beginning of the season, they were playing like individuals,” Kiski Area coach Mark Hastings said. “They know what they have to do. They know they need to play more as a team and move the puck more.”

The Golden Lions had the Cavaliers’ number in their two regular-season matchups. Greensburg Salem won 7-1 in the season opener Oct. 6, and the Golden Lions won 5-2 on Nov. 28.

“We have to put it behind us,” Hastings said. “We’re playing well as a team right now. They are looking forward to doing whatever they can to make it to the finals. The kids are excited. We have a lot of seniors on the team. They don’t want this to end right now.”

Tutich had seven points in those two matchups (three goals and four assists). If the Cavaliers have any dreams of making it to the final at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, they will need to find a way to minimize Tutich’s offensive impact.

Kiski Area had been on the doorstep of the finals in recent history. But the Cavaliers lost in 2020 and 2021 in the semifinals.

“To make it to the finals would be a great experience for a lot of these kids,” Hastings said.

When Greensburg Salem was last in the playoffs in 2021, the Golden Lions lost to Kiski Area in the quarterfinals. This time around, Mentch is using that game as fuel to advance.

“It’s been a long time coming for this group,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years. We’ve been getting the program back on everyone’s radar as a good program. Now, we are looking to take that step to prove we are one of the elite programs in the class.

“The senior group and a lot of this junior group has been part of the ascension over the past years. We’ve had plenty of heartache. We’re carrying a chip from all of that, and we are hungry to prove ourselves here.”

The winner will face either No. 1 seed Fox Chapel or Norwin, the defending Class A Penguin Cup champion, March 20 at 8:45 p.m. at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. The Blue Division in Class A has shown its strength as all four teams remaining are from the division.

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