Kiski Area edges Norwin to reach Penguins Cup semifinals

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 | 12:01 AM

In one season, Kiski Area hockey has gone from a one-win team to being a victory away from playing for a Penguins Cup championship.

The Cavaliers’ remarkable turnaround continued Tuesday night with what it is believed to be their first postseason win since 2005 in a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Norwin in the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup quarterfinals at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.

Kiski Area (13-7-1) held a one-goal lead for the entire third period, keeping the Knights (15-5-1) at bay by limiting prime scoring chances. It was an exclamation point on the renaissance that has taken place during the 2019-20 season for the Cavaliers.

“It was amazing,” Kiski Area defenseman Aiden Sites said. “We played like we wanted to win. Last year wasn’t bad, but we just weren’t all together as a team. This year we’re determined. We have a couple of seniors that we want to win for like our goalie (Eric Petika). He wants to win and we’re playing for him.”

The Cavaliers advanced to play Indiana in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at RMU Island Sports Center. Kiski Area swept the Indians, 2-0, in the regular season, winning both games by one goal.

Jacob Ayers scored what proved to be the game-winning goal six minutes into the second period when he scored a power play goal off his own rebound right in front of Norwin goalie Sam Coll, which gave Kiski Area a 3-1 lead.

Norwin was without a pair of its top forwards, Jacob Dally, who tied for the team lead with 44 points and Sal Cerilli. Both were out because of injury. Cerilli scored the game-winner for the Knights in their 4-3 regular season win over the Cavaliers in November.

With some jumbled lines due to the absences Norwin still put 30 shots on net, but couldn’t find a way to score in the third. Norwin’s best chance in the third came off a weird bounce where Kiski Area defenseman Nicolas Slomka blocked a shot in front of the net and the puck deflected behind Petika, but he was able to swat the puck to the left corner boards before it crossed the goal line.

“We had a lot of bad bounces, especially in front of the net,” Norwin coach Adam Tokarski said. “We just couldn’t burry the opportunities we had.”

Kiski Area had a strong penalty kill, successfully killing all four power play attempts, including one in the final four minutes. Strong defensive play from Sites, Slomka and freshmen Tanner Kowalkowski and Colin Cline combined with an aggressive forecheck from Michael Rayburg made life difficult on the Norwin power play unit.

“We blocked shots and cleared guys out in front of the net well, so Eric could see the shots,” Cline said.

Freshman Matthew Drahos scored off a feed from fellow freshman Kyle Guido that successfully finished off a two-on-none breakaway after a Norwin defender fell down to open the scoring. Ashton Yemec scored on a point shot to tie the game 1-1 midway through the first.

Sites scored 30 seconds into the second period to give the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead.

“I just got it up at the point and there was a screen in front of the goalie, so I just took a slap shot and it went right by the goalie’s pad and went in,” Sites said of his goal. “I didn’t think it was going in, but I was glad to see it go in.”

Logan Connelly scored in the final minute of the second to pull Norwin within one.

Petika made 28 saves in net. Coll stopped 24 shots, including a couple of nice glove saves in the third that kept Norwin within striking distance.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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