Not even a different mask could beat Serra Catholic’s Nick Koroly on Monday night.
The senior goaltender turned away all 36 Bishop McCort shots as the Eagles posted a 3-0 win over the Crimson Crushers in a PIHL 84 Lumber Penguins Cup Championship Series Class A semifinal game at Ice Castle Arena.
“He stood on his head. He was awesome,” Serra coach George Ellis said. “He’s been playing really well as of late. He was fantastic.”The Eagles (21-2-1) advance to the Penguins Cup championship game at Mellon Arena on March 25 at 1 p.m. against Quaker Valley.
“It’s where we wanted to be,” Ellis said. “It was our goal and we’ve accomplished it, but we’re not done yet.”
While Koroly went the distance to earn the shutout, his mask didn’t make quite make it. A strap broke on it and he had to borrow Jeff Smarachek’s mask for the final two minutes.
“The [Bishop McCort] came in and ran into my helmet and broke one of the straps off,” Koroly said. “We went to the bench and taped it up. Then, the [refs] said we had to fix it, so I had to switch. That mask was [bigger and] all lopsided on my head and I couldn’t really see anything, but I really couldn’t see anything most of the time late in the third period anyway.”
The Crimson Crushers (19-4-1) pummeled Koroly with 16 shots in the period and finished with a 36-23 advantage.
“I didn’t find out until after the game that they outshot us,” Koroly said. “They were really on us in the third period. I didn’t think we were going to get away with a zero.”
The Eagles received a strong game from senior forward Steven Gruhalla. He recorded a natural hat-trick on the night.
“Steven comes up big in big games all the time,” Ellis said. “He’s an excellent hockey player and he brings a lot of energy to the team. He’s clutch; he does come up big.”
Gruhalla is excited to get Serra Catholic back to Mellon Arena. The Eagles are gunning for their fifth championship in seven years. Bishop McCort beat Serra 5-2 in last year’s final. That Crimson Crushers victory broke a five-year streak of season-ending losses to the Eagles. Serra beat the Crimson Crushers three times (2000-02) in the Penguins Cup title game during that span, too.
“It’s awesome,” Gruhalla said. “I am so happy we’re going back.”
Bishop McCort beat Serra Catholic, 6-2, on Dec. 5, but the two teams played to a scoreless tie on Feb. 12. Koroly had a feeling he could play well again.
“I didn’t know we were going to shut them out, but I knew we were going to win,” he said. “When we came out of the last game 0-0, we played them in their building and outshot them and had all the momentum. So, I knew we were going to come out and get a win here, but I didn’t it’d be this one-sided.”
Aaron Nolte scored the Eagles’ first goal and assisted on two of Gruhalla’s tallies. Josh Werner, Mike Ellis, Jared Mathews and Patrick Boehm all had assists.
“It was an absolutely great game,” George Ellis said. “A great team effort.”