Fox Chapel hockey hopes to ride momentum into postseason

Sunday, February 9, 2020 | 5:08 PM

In 20 years of being involved in hockey, Fox Chapel coach Cam Raidna never experienced anything like what his team pulled off Thursday night against Kiski Area.

With the Foxes’ playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Andrew Rich and Reed Troutman scored 38 seconds apart with the goalie pulled — including Troutman’s goal with less than a second left — to force overtime. Troutman then scored the lone goal in a shootout to propel Fox Chapel to a 4-3 victory.

A day after the comeback, Raidna was still amped up.

“I kind of blacked out at the end because of the pure excitement and joy,” Raidna said. “I had an overwhelming sense of pride for our school and our players for literally fighting until the last second when their season was on the line and never losing hope throughout.”

The Foxes (7-7-3) went from nearly being erased from the postseason picture to being in the thick of it with three games remaining. They sit two points behind Kiski Area (9-6-1) and Indiana (8-6-3), who are tied atop the PIHL Class A Northeast Division standings. The top two teams qualify for the playoffs.

The frantic finish started with a timeout by Raidna after a hooking penalty on Kiski Area’s Tanner Kowalkowski. Raidna pulled goalie Nash Wedner to create a six-on-four, and the Foxes cashed in with a goal by Rich off a rebound.

After Fox Chapel won the ensuing faceoff, Wedner headed to the bench again in favor of an extra attacker. Kiski Area got control of the puck and fired toward the empty net, but it went wide for an icing. Raidna said the clock went down to three seconds after the icing, but the officials put two seconds back on because the clock ran too long. Those two seconds turned out to be a huge difference.

Fox Chapel lost possession after the faceoff, but the puck bounced around to the stick of Troutman, and he scored with less than one second remaining.

Troutman then scored the winner in the three-round shootout. Raidna wasn’t surprised to see Troutman rise to the occasion.

“Reed doesn’t have a letter on his chest, but he is one of the leaders of our team,” Raidna said. “He helps the young guys out, and he always comes to play. It’s great to have someone that doesn’t have a letter take upon a leadership role to really help out the team.

Another player who rose to the occasion Thursday was Wedner. He made 30 saves in regulation and overtime and stopped all three attempts in the shootout.

“It was an amazing feeling when that last shot hit my blocker,” Wedner said. “It made me feel like I was a part of the win. It was awesome when all the boys came over and congratulated me. It was really cool.”

Wedner, a sophomore, has split time with senior Tyler Radigan, and the tandem has been one of the best in Class A. Wedner has an .890 save percentage and has allowed three or fewer goals in six outings. Radigan has a .906 save percentage.

“I feel like one goalie comes in and plays a good game, and the other one wants to do it again to help the team,” Wedner said. “It’s a healthy competition, and it makes the team better.”

Fox Chapel has played in seven one-goal games, and 12 of its 17 games have been decided by two or fewer goals.

The intensity will continue to ramp up in the final three divisional games. The Foxes face Freeport on Thursday, then play Indiana and have a rematch with Kiski Area to close the season.

The Foxes still have work to do to reach playoffs, but their comeback win against Kiski Area showed their capabilities.

“When the schedule came out, and I saw who was in our section, I said that the season was going to come down to our last four games,” Raidna said. “At the all-star game, I was talking to some of the other coaches about how having those games at the end of the season makes it fun. We need to beat Freeport, but if we beat them, then we need Freeport to beat either Indiana or Kiski Area. So if we win (Thursday), we will immediately become big fans of theirs.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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