Latrobe netminder Nicholas Loyacona made 39 spectacular saves to help his team stay perfect and defend its Penguin Cup Championship title Monday night at the Mellon Arena.
The Wildcats’ crowned their perfect season (22-0-0) with the 3-0 shutout performance over the Montour Spartans in the 84 Lumber PIHL AA Penguins Cup Championship game. The Wildcats only allowed 34 goals against this entire season and blanked the Spartans many scoring chances in the Championship game.
“It’s definitely the best hockey experience of my life right now,” Latrobe senior JeffJoe Regula said. “Nick (Loyaconna was) unbelievable - the best goaltender in the league. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again, he’s the best goaltender. Wow, he had so many amazing saves this game.. He can play with the best of the contenders out here in hockey.”
The blue Igloo seats at the Mellon Arena were filled to capacity and were transformed into high school bleachers full of rowdy fans who donned their team’s colors of black and yellow and orange and black respectively. One guy on the Latrobe side even painted his entire chest orange in honor of the Wildcats.
Latrobe offered its fans the first chance to celebrate as the Wildcats converted on a power-play opportunity at 8:45 in the first period for the first goal of the game. Junior Jayson Angus carried the puck down the right side and dished it through the slot to Ryan LaDuke, who found the back of the net with a one-time shot for the goal.
In the opening shift of the second period Latrobe scored an even-strength goal to put the game out of Montour's reach. Only 16 seconds into the period, senior Tyler Berger battled out of the near corner with the puck on his stick. He skated to the net, pulled the puck around a Montour defenseman and wristed a shot past Montour goalie Matthew Scoff for the point.
The last minutes of the second period saw scoring chances for both sides but both goalies maintained their composure and kept the game at 2-0. Montour almost got on the board twice in those final moments and tallied a 30-18 advantage in shots over the first two periods but couldn’t manage to get the puck past Loyacona.
“I think that second goal put the cap on them and from there on out we just held them there,” Loyacona said. “I just think that we held the momentum. This is the most shots I’ve faced all season, 39. That’s a lot coming at you. I’m just happy to have a shut out.”
Montour also had a chance to tie the game on the power play at 7:20 in the third period but Loyacona shut the door on everything, including a point-blank save on junior Andy Beck off of a turnover right in front of the net.
Latrobe maintained its 2-0 lead for the rest of the game and tacked on an empty-netter in the final minute of the final frame to bury Montour, 3-0.
“It’s sweet,” head coach Dan Ridder said. “These boys have had this goal and it was just achieving their goal. It’s unbelievable. These boys are undefeated since last year. They deserve it. These boys really stuck together all season long.”