Wildcats romp in season opener
EAST FRANKLIN TWP. – Kittanning learned a painful lesson early in last season’s run to the Penguin Cup finals. Never take a team lightly.
The Wildcats made that mistake in their season opener last year, a humiliating 6-1 loss to Moon that had the team shaking their heads.
Not so this year as preseason PIHL Class AA favorite Kittanning (1-0) steamrolled past Carrick 7-0.
“Sometimes when you play a team that is less experienced than you are, sometimes the guys have a tendency to play to the level of the competition and make a game out of it,” Kittanning head coach Jeff Smouse said. “These guys did a real nice job of coming out and playing a better level of hockey than what they had and they put them away.”
New team captain Dustin Kellner led the way for Kittanning with two goals and two assists including an unassisted shorthanded goal at 10:26 of the second period. Last season’s leading goal scorer Eddie Germy also got on the board with a pair of goals, both set up by Kellner, the second of which came on the power play at 13:18 of the second period that started the running clock.
“It seemed like we lost a little chemistry in the preseason,” Kellner said. “But I’m glad it’s back.”
Kittanning’s power play appeared to be in midseason form, converting 3-of-6 chances against the Raiders despite shuttling in a lot of younger players who normally wouldn’t see action with the man-advantage.
“It was a good opportunity to get those guys in and get them some varsity experience,” Smouse said. “Every year that I’ve been involved in the high school program someone seems to go down and get hurt, whether it’s for a couple weeks or a long period of time and those guys need to be game ready.”
With that in mind, Smouse sat his number-one goaltender Adam Toy in favor of junior netminder Pete Tolman, who turned aside five shots to post the shutout.
“I just had to stop all the shots that I could and the team played well in front of me,” Tolman said. “I just try to stay focused as much as I can and pay attention to what’s going on.”
Most of what was going on was happening on the opposite side of the ice.
Kittanning jumped all over Carrick from the opening faceoff, outshooting the Raiders 9-1 in the first 5:16 of the game. That ninth shot, though, was the first Wildcats goal of the season as defenseman Pat Schneider, who’s known more for his hard hits than hard shot, blistered a slapper from the left point into the back of the net for a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.
Kittanning hit on its next power play chance as well as Lee Heilman converted a pass from Shane Troup, playing his first official game since January when he had surgery to remove a growth on his ankle, at 9:14 of the first period for a 2-0 advantage.
The Wildcats essentially put the game away on when Germy and Kellner scored 29 seconds apart in the final minute of the first period to take a 4-0 lead when the horn sounded.
To add insult to injury, Luke Heller and Kellner scored shorthanded goals 27 second apart on the same Carrick power play to salt things away.
“We played a solid game,” Kellner said. “You should never take a team lightly, especially after our season opener last year. We knew they were a weak team, but you cannot take a team lightly.”