CRANBERRY TWP., Pa. — The North Catholic Trojans were mere minutes away from watching what had been amazing 17-2-1 regular season come to an end in the PIHL quarterfinal game at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex on Tuesday night. However, a game tying goal late in the third period set the stage for Dominic Dezort’s deflection :29 into overtime that sent the Trojans through to the semifinal round next week, capping a hard fought 3-2 victory over the South Park Eagles.
The game saw a spirited effort from the Eagles who were fueled by two goals from leading scorer Ryan Malacki and key saves from netminder Shane Peremba. Malacki opened the scoring at 9:29 of the first frame with the lone assist coming off the stick of Kirk Steward. North Catholic got on the board when Jonathan Felouzis finished a goal-mouth scrum by getting the puck past Paremba at 5:08 of the second. However, just when it appeared the Trojans were wresting the momentum away, Malacki responded when he sent a shot from close range that beat Trojan goaltender Chris McFayden to put the Eagles back out in front.
KEEPING IT TOGETHER
The high powered offense of the Trojans was kept in check thanks to Peremba and a team effort that saw the Eagles applying the body whenever possible. It was a simple case of staying patient and taking advantage of what opportunities they could create in the recipe for success, and it was a game plan that worked for North Catholic despite being down for most of the contest, simply by keeping frustration at bay until the opportunities came their way.
“It’s something we’ve been stressing all year,” Trojan head coach John Hoffman said. “Staying composed and staying within our game plan and trusting in the work we’ve been putting through since August and it paid off in the end. It was a similar game like we had against them earlier in the year and we knew if we kept pressing we had the speed and we could get behind them and get some opportunities and take advantage of it.”
The speed and opportunities Hoffman spoke of were on display as Trojan forward Quinten Shaffer took a pass from Felouzis just before the blue line and turned it into a breakaway. Once in the clear, Shaffer put the moves on Peremba and put the puck past him at 13;34 of the third period to tie the game at two apiece. However, the Eagles narrowly missed taking a 3- lead and were a force to be reckoned with, just as their were when the two teams met in November in a game that went the Trojan’s way in overtime as well.
“They (South Park) can match our speed and they’re very physical and physicality kind of negates some speed sometimes,” Hoffman added. “That’s something that they took advantage of and we had to fight through that and try to get to the other side of it.”
TIMELY KEY SAVES
For as good as Peremba was in stopping 28-of-30 Trojan shots, McFayden was equal to the task despite less shots as he stopped 21-of-23 pieces of rubber sent his way. McFayden came up big when it was most necessary, helping keep the Eagles in reach until his team could find the right opportunities to take advantage of.
“Chris has done that all year for us,” Hoffman said of his goaltender. “He’s been a rock in net. Without him we’re not here. As much as we can put the puck in the net he’s been there to bail us out and he did it again tonight. He doesn’t need a lot of work to do it but he makes timely saves night in and night out.”
The Trojans next game will take place next Tuesday night at the RMU Island Sports Center when they take on Thomas Jefferson at 9:00 p.m.