Trib HSSN PIHL Player of the Week: Mario Eafrati, Canon-McMillan

Monday, March 4, 2019 | 12:38 AM

During the PIHL regular season, two goaltenders in Triple-A faced more than 500 shots.

One of them, sophomore Mario Eafrati of Canon-McMillan, faced 570 shots, the most in the classification by 56.

He allowed 63 goals for a save percentage of .889. He recorded a shutout and made 30 or more saves seven times.

Eafrati faced 63 shots against Bethel Park in the Big Macs’ second game of the season and stopped 59.

The maturity process was sped up as a result for Eafrati, a first-year varsity player.

That’s what made Eafrati’s performance all the more impressive in Monday’s No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game in the Penguins Cup Playoffs, coach Nick Godfrey said.

Eafrati stopped all but one of the 34 shots he faced against Butler, leading the Big Macs to a 5-1 win and a chance to face No. 1 Peters Township in the quarterfinals Tuesday.

“All of the boys were prepared. Scoring a goal early helped us out, and from there we leaned on Mario,” Godfrey said. “He made some big saves on some two-on-ones and on a power play they had in the first period. To an extent, throughout the season, that’s what he’s done for us.”

The Big Macs have a young team with only three seniors. The season has been a maturity process for everybody, especially Eafrati.

“The story of his season has been like the story of our team’s season. We threw a lot of young guys into the lineup to play significant minutes and roles,” Godfrey said.

Since Dec. 11, Eafrati has made 35 or more saves three times and has allowed three or fewer goals in each of his last three games.

The performance against Butler was the best of the three. He also had 28 saves against Butler on Feb. 4 and a 30-save night against Mt. Lebanon in the final regular-season game Feb. 18.

Eafrati played in the Triple-A All Star Game and did not allow a goal.

“He’s really been settling in of late and has learned how to be our No. 1 guy,” said Godfrey. “All those shots he faced early on and the adversity he faced is really starting to pay off. I think the beginning of the season going through some struggles together showed us what happens when you make mistakes, what happens when you’re not on your game from the drop of the puck and more. I think it’s paying off for everybody.”

Eafrati will face one of his toughest tests against Peters Township.

There is familiarity, as Canon-McMillan played Peters three times during the regular season. Eafrati allowed six goals on 34 shots in a 6-4 loss Oct. 2 in the team’s opener.

On Nov. 27, Eafrati stopped 36 of the 39 shots in a 3-2 loss. On Dec. 11, Peters Township won 4-1, as Eafrati made 36 saves on 40 shots.

“There won’t be any surprises,” Godfrey said. “I think the biggest thing for us as a group and for Mario as an individual is to have that confidence that we can play with those guys. It is also important for us to not let Peters dictate the pace of the game and go on one of those runs where they score two or three goals in two or three shifts. They’ve done it to us before.”

As a whole, Godfrey has been pleased with Eafrati’s development, which has been aided by playing amateur hockey.

“He plays with a quiet confidence and doesn’t say much,” said Godfrey. “And he works so hard, which obviously pays off.”

Tuesday’s game begins at 7 p.m. at the Printscape Arena at Southpointe.

PIHL honorable mentions (Week Of Feb. 25):

• Andrew Golvash scored the first two goals for Baldwin in a 3-0 win over Moon on Tuesday, as the Southeast’s fifth seed won the interconference play-in game. In the same game, goalie Cole Shannon posted a 20-save shutout.

• In Single-A, Montour had several standout performances, including Ryan Eisel scoring four goals in a 14-1 win over Greensburg Salem on Monday. … In the same game, Ritchy Froehlich Jr. had five assists. … Last week’s PIHL Player of the Week, Meadville’s Nick Frantz, scored five goals and an assist in the Bulldogs’ 10-2 win over Norwin. … Cohl Weber added four helpers for Meadville. … In Thomas Jefferson’s win over Freeport, Edward Pazo had a hat trick and two assists, and John Piscitelli had two assists and two goals.

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