OMAHA, Neb. – The Bethel Park Blackhawks of Pittsburgh defeated the Providence Catholic Celtics of Chicago 2-1 on Sunday morning at Ralston Arena to claim the title at the 2014 Toyota-USA Hockey High School National Championships.
The game began a neck-and-neck contest. The Celtics were able to keep the puck in their offensive zone for much of the period, but the active Bethel Park defenseman made it tough for shots to reach the net.
At the 4:20 mark in the period, Providence was whistled for interference, but the Celtics were the ones who made the most of the call, nearly converting a breakaway opportunity on the penalty. At the end of the first, however, both sides remained scoreless and even with eight shots on goal apiece.
In the second, Providence stole the momentum as the Celtics controlled the puck down low, leading to Richard Yusa’s backdoor goal to make it 1-0.
“When we were down one goal, and when they scored first, I thought it was going to be tough,” said Bethel Park coach James McVay.
Later in the period, another penalty was called on Providence, this time for stick holding. This time the Blackhawks were able to capitalize: They controlled puck and took it coast to coast to punch in the equalizing goal.
“That was the best 2-on-1 we’ve had all season,” McVay said.
Minutes later, Bethel Park had another near goal, officially shifting the momentum to the Blackhawks. The momentum shift showed up on the scoreboard with 1:35 left in the period.
Bethel Park’s Chris Siak hustled to reach a puck that was drifting back near the Celtics goal. Siak won it away from the Celtic defenseman and slung it to Jacob Salak, who was sitting in front of the net. Salak punched in the shot for a goal.
Bethel Park held on to the 2-1 advantage at the intermission, leading shots on goal 18-16.
The Celtics came out in the third period with a heightened sense of urgency and intensity. Providence had many good looks, but the Blackhawks defensemen and goalie found a way to keep the chances out of the net.
“Our goal is to block every shot,” McVay said. “It says we outshot them, but that’s only because they didn’t get to the net. But we played well.”
Providence pulled its goalie with a little more than a minute to play, but the team’s effort came up short as the Blackhawks of Bethel Park became the new kings of high school hockey.
“It was a great experience being here,” Bethel Park senior captain Derek Lesnak said. “It was our last hockey together as a team, and we made the most of it and won a national championship.”
Bethel Park was not a favorite to win, as the Blackhawks were knocked off in their regional playoffs. But the squad put together a great weekend run that led to a national title.
“It was great coming here and showing what Pittsburg hockey plays like,” Lesnak said. “We shocked some teams coming through, playing good defense and playing as a team. That’s how our hockey is.”
The championship marks the end of the career for Lesnak, who has played more games for Bethel Park than anyone else. He believes he couldn’t have drawn out a better game to end his career and symbolize Bethel Park hockey on a national stage.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but you come in a boy and come out a man,” Lesnak said. “Couldn’t ask for anything better playing for Bethel Park hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.