JOHNSTOWN – Freeport’s reign as PIHL Class A champion came to an end Wednesday night, as Bishop McCort defeated the defending champion Yellowjackets, 6-3.
McCort jumped to a 4-0 firs-period advantage and thwarted a Freeport comeback attempt by killing off four power plays in the final period in a quarterfinal game at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
The Crushers (16-7) move on to semifinal play Monday or Tuesday at Mellon Arena, while Freeport (14-8-2) concluded another successful season.
Bishop McCort’s first-period barrage was too much for the Yellowjackets to overcome. The Crushers continuously fired away and didn’t stop until they took a 4-0 lead with one second left in the period, outshooting Freeport, 22-5, in the opening period.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Yellowjackets coach Dave Hepler. “As well as we played Monday night, we played absolutely horrible in the first period. Guys that were some of our best players were totally out of sync.”
The score could have been worse were it not for some outstanding saves by Tim Zahumensky, Freeport’s four-year goaltender.
“He made a lot of tough saves,” McCort coach John Bradley said. “It could have been 15-0 — we had to work for every single goal.”
Dane Domonkos got the scoring under way just 1:01 into the game. Freeport appeared to have the tying goal when Jeremy Gent’s shot found its way under the crossbar, but the officials conferred briefly and waved off the goal. That was one of Freeport’s few scoring opportunities in the period.
Bryan Scott and Justin Delic followed with goals, and Domonkos finished the period with a shorthanded goal with one second left.
Chad James’ goal on a rebound made it 5-0 with 7:51 to go in the second period.
But the Yellowjackets were unwilling to yield their crown so easily. David Bonitsky and Cody Barker scored goals 20 seconds apart to make it 5-2. Later on a power play, Jeremy Hepler fired a shot to the left of the goal. The puck took a friendly bounce back to Barker, who fired in the goal to cut Freeport’s deficit to two.
“It’s hard to go down, 5-0, with only 10 or 11 players on your end, but I was proud of them; we finally got it together and came back,” Hepler said.
Bradley pulled senior goaltender Dan Mock and brought in sophomore Luke James.
“I don’t know if we got a little bit comfortable or what,” Bradley said. “We kind of sat back and what got us the 5-0 lead, we started doing the opposite. They’re the defending champs; they weren’t going down without a fight.”
Delic’s unassisted goal off a turnover made it 6-3 with 13:35 to go. John Reichenbaugh nearly scored for Freeport, but the Yellowjackets couldn’t convert a rebound at point-blank range.
The Crushers quashed four Freeport power-play chances in the final period, including a solid shot by Hepler that hit the side of the net.
The game also marked the end of Zahumensky’s Freeport careery.
“That first period was a challenge,” Zahumensky said. “There were a lot of breakaways and a lot of odd-man breaks that put us behind. That’s really what killed us this game.”
Zahumensky will audition for Ontario Junior teams and will be eligible for the NHL draft in June.