Last Updated: Tue Mar 21, 2023 - 1:45AM
Kiski Area opened its 2022-23 PIHL campaign with a 5-2 loss at home against Fox Chapel Area. More than four months later, the Cavaliers were riding a hot streak into a rematch against the Foxes, but Kiski Area was stunned 10-2. With gold on the line in the third meeting on Monday, the Cavaliers avenged those previous losses with a 4-1 victory against Fox Chapel Area to claim the 2023 Class A Penguins Cup Championship at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Neville Island.
Captain Ethan George continued his playoff surge, as he netted two goals, including the game winner. Additionally, Cavaliers goaltender Evin Brice made 34 saves, limiting the top offensive team in the classification.
“The last time we played these guys, we just weren’t in the right state of mind,” said Kiski Area assistant Dwayne Wilson, who was serving as the bench boss with head coach Mark Hastings out of the state with his son’s hockey team.
The Cavaliers bore little resemblance to that team that was outclassed by the Foxes in mid-February, though, as Kiski Area jumped out to a lead less than four minutes into Tuesday’s tilt. Liam Alexander carried the puck into the offensive zone for KA, and he dished to Justin Gross in the low slot, who pushed the puck past Foxes goalie Joe Rattner to stake the Cavs to the early edge.
“It was incredible. We wanted to come out hard, and that’s exactly what we did,” Wilson said of the significance of scoring the initial goal.
George extended the lead midway through the first period, as his wrister sailed past Rattner and underneath the crossbar to make it 2-0 Kiski Area.
“Ethan is one of the greatest personalities to be a captain of a hockey team,” Wilson said of George, who scored a team-best 35 goals during the regular season. “He wants it more than anyone you can ever imagine. He is pretty much the one bringing this team together. He’s the heart and soul.”
Early in the second period, George gave the Cavaliers a 3-0 edge. The Foxes got on the board about three minutes later on the power play, however, as Trip Goehring ripped the twine.
Trailing by two goals beginning the third, the Foxes peppered the net, but Brice continually proved up to the challenge.
“Evin stood on his head the last three games,” Wilson stated. “He’s playing tremendously right now.”
The Cavaliers closed out the championship victory on an empty net goal by defenseman Ethan Bombalski, who sent the puck from near his own net into the vacated Foxes’ net with 1:32 left in the third.
Wilson said he and his players experience an array of emotions following that game-sealing sequence, as the Cavs capped off an improbable postseason run. After finishing fourth in the Blue Division during the regular season, Kiski Area defeated Avonworth in a play-in matchup to reach the quarterfinals. From there, the Cavaliers shocked North Hills, the top seed from the Gold Division, and ousted Greensburg Salem in the semifinals last week, setting the stage for their showdown against the Foxes.
“They finally started to come together as a team – trusting each other and just working together. We knew we had the talent; it was just trying to get the chemistry,” Wilson explained. “It took a while to get that, but it finally came together in the end at the right time.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys. They deserved it,” he concluded.
Kiski Area will face Philadelphia representative West Chester East in the Class A Pennsylvania Cup Championship on Saturday at 11 a.m. at the RMU Island Sports Center.