Kiski goalie proves point with Penguins Cup Class A championship win over Fox Chapel

Monday, March 20, 2023 | 11:50 PM

Kiski senior goaltender Evin Brice turned in a masterful performance Monday night, making 34 saves to lead his team to a 4-1 victory over Fox Chapel in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class A championship game.

It was a showing at least a month in the making.

On Feb. 13, Fox Chapel ran away with a 10-2 victory to sweep the regular-season series with Kiski.

It was almost as if that game, in which Brice allowed 10 goals on 25 shots, was a wake-up call. And it turned on the light for Brice.

Since then, Brice has allowed eight goals on 123 shots, including a brilliant effort to give Kiski the victory in its first PIHL finals appearance Monday night.

“I saw most of the pucks. There’s a few that I had to battle around, but most of them, it was simple: Watch the puck, save it,” Brice said. “I came in with something to prove. I came in a little mad and wanted to win bad. I came in with complete confidence.”

Coach Mark Hastings missed the title game because he was with his son at Ohio University, which is in ACHA Nationals. Assistant coach Chris Bombalski said Brice has been a key reason for the team’s late-season run.

“Evin was really good tonight and so were the defensemen,” Bombalski said. “Evin stood on his head, and it kept things in line for us. After that game (against Fox Chapel), he pulled it together.”

Ethan George, who scored twice in the victory, said Brice’s performance was “unbelievable.”

“I don’t know what he ate before this game, but he needs to do that every game,” George said.

After Fox Chapel started the game furiously in the Kiski end and registered a couple of shots against Brice, the Cavaliers got it going the other way with the game’s first goal coming from Justin Gross at 3:37 of the first period.

George got the assist before scoring the second goal of the game after it appeared as if the play was stopped before he netted what turned out to be the game winner at 8:26 of the first off a springing feed from Tanner Kowalkowski.

“I could not be any more proud of these kids. Everyone works so hard and comes ready to play,” George said. “That was our main goal, to get the first goal and push it back a little. We were good (after that).”

George scored 3:14 into the second period off a feed by Kyle Guido before Trip Goehring scored Fox Chapel’s only marker a few minutes later on the power play. Ethan Bombalski hit an empty netter from behind his own net in the closing minutes to ice the win away.

Fox Chapel’s season comes to an end at 20-3. Coach Cam Raidna said he felt like the Foxes played well enough to win, but just ran into a really good goalie.

“I’m still very proud of my guys. They didn’t leave anything out on the ice, and that’s all we can really ask for in a game like this,” Raidna said. “Kiski always gives us a tough match. For whatever reason, they are a difficult team for us and they came out and wanted it. Congratulations to them.”

Kiski can enjoy the first Penguins Cup in school history for a short time before turning its attention to its first state championship appearance. The Cavaliers will play Flyers Cup champion West Chester East at 11 a.m. Saturday for state gold. West Chester is Single-A’s two-time defending champion and a four-time state champion overall (2008, 2013, 2021, 2022).

“Our team’s very good at not getting intimidated,” George said. “We can do anything together I feel like. We’ve got each other’s backs, no matter who we play.”

Brice will likely have to keep his success rolling if Kiski is going to become a first-time state champ.

“I don’t know. I came into the playoffs … it’s my senior season and it kind of feels like I’m fighting for my life. Hockey has been such a big part of my life that when it’s on the doorstep of going, you don’t want to end,” Brice said. “I’m going to fight tooth and nail to keep it going.”

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