Penguins Cup champion Kiski writing remarkable postseason story

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | 8:40 PM


The last couple of weeks for the Kiski Area hockey team have been a whirlwind.

The Cavaliers went from suffering a 10-2 loss in a showdown with PIHL Class A Blue Division leader and eventual winner Fox Chapel on Feb. 13 to a 4-1 victory over the same Fox Chapel team for the program’s first Penguins Cup championship Monday night in Cranberry.

The championship appearance was the first for the Kiski Area hockey program and is the latest chapter in the story of a group that was close to the top over the last handful of years.

It’s a chapter the Cavaliers are hoping is not the end of their success story.

Kiski gets a crack at a state title Saturday at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center.

It’ll be a tall task against two-time defending champion West Chester East, which knocked off Hershey, 4-0, for the Class A Flyers Cup on Monday night.

“Honestly, since the loss to Fox Chapel, the kids have turned it around a little bit,” said coach Mark Hastings. “I think that’s it. They know this it for their high school careers (for the seniors). They’re doing everything they can to finish in a big way and are doing everything right.”

It was a sentiment brought up by Kiski goalie Evin Brice after the championship game.

Brice made 34 saves — many of them spectacular — and he has been a standout throughout the postseason.

“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.”

The senior goaltender made 24 saves on 27 shots in the play-in round against Avonworth. He stopped 17 of 19 shots in Kiski’s upset of Class A Gold champion North Hills in the quarterfinals and 21 saves on 22 shots against Greensburg Salem in the semis.

Ethan George, who scored two goals in the championship game and has nine points (six goals, three assists) in the playoffs, said after the game it was “unbelievable” playing in front of Brice.

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

Brice will no doubt be tested again in the state championship game.

Trey Jefferis III and Joey Cardarelli have both scored nine points for West Chester East in three Flyers Cup playoff victories. Cardarelli scored two of his eight playoff goals in the title game against Hershey.

Hastings said it’ll be difficult to prepare for them. He also said it may come down to grit.

“Not knowing the opponent is a little bit of a challenge,” Hastings said. “They’ve got the experience where we don’t, so we’ll do everything we can to stop it. I don’t think there will be much tape available, but I try to read and react. Hopefully within the first couple minutes, we’ll see what they’re doing and be able to make adjustments.”

George said it’s about not letting the moment get too big in the state title game.

“Just come ready to play, really. 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.”

West Chester has won state titles in 2008, ’13, ’21 and ’22. Saturday’s game will be Kiski’s first foray into unfamiliar territory at the state level.

The matchup is set for 11 a.m. Saturday and can be viewed on TribLive HSSN.

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