JSerra hockey knocks off defending champions at U.S. Nationals


With the odds stacked against them and their backs against the wall, the JSerra hockey team was going to need a huge performance against the reigning national champions.

The Lions got that performance between the pipes.

Senior goaltender Nick Valdez made 22 saves as JSerra shut out Regis Jesuit of Colorado, 2-0, Friday in a pool-play game to keep its quarterfinal hopes alive at the USA Hockey High School Pure Division Nationals in Ashburn, Va.

“When you get in environments like this, championship environments, you need veteran leaders to step up,” JSerra coach Mike Perkins said. “It’s a pivotal part to all the things we do. Nick came up huge today.”

JSerra (1-1-0, 3 points) is in a four-way tie in its pool going into the final day of pool play Saturday. A win against Bethel Park of Pennsylvania would put JSerra in a strong position to make the quarterfinals by winning the group on a tiebreaker or taking one of three wild card positions.

“Some things have got to happen here. We’ve just got to do our part in this,” Perkins said. “We’re come out the same way we did today, business as usual, and let the cards fall where they may.”

After a scoreless, even-keeled first, the Lions and Regis Jesuit (1-1-0, 3 points) combined for 14 penalties and 63 penalty minutes in the second period.

JSerra capitalized on a two-man advantage with a one-time blast by senior Jacob Lauricella from Austin Foster and Mason Pilkington for the 1-0 lead.

“With both teams that are fighting for every inch, things get a little hot,” Perkins said. “We were able to fight through that and took advantage of our opportunity.”

JSerra killed off three more penalties in the third period to hold Regis Jesuit 0-for-8 with the man advantage.

“We were really big on our penalty kill,” Perkins said. “Good position by our defensive core to make Regis stay on the perimeter. Shots came from outside, not middle of the ice, and Nick was there to stop it.”

Senior Brendan Pagani hit the empty net with an assist from Dave Haukkala to put away Regis Jesuit, 2-0.

In other pool play:

Downingtown East (Pa.) 4, Orange Lutheran 3 (SO): The Lancers scored three goals in a four-minute span late in the third to force overtime, but Downingtown East won in a shootout in a pool play game.

“Pucks weren’t bouncing our way and the guys were a little deflated, Orange Lutheran coach Dan Adams said. “For whatever reason just wasn’t our day. I don’t think we’eve ever lost a shootout.”

Orange Lutheran (0-1-1, 1 point) earned a standings point but needs help elsewhere and a win Saturday against Central Catholic of Pennsylvania for any hope of a wild-card berth in the quarterfinals.

Downingtown led, 3-0, after two periods.

Orange Lutheran got a boost with six minutes left in the third as Shane Vidger scored on the power play from Chandler DiTolla and Jacob Heller to get OLu on the board.

Three minutes later, Orange Lutheran scored another power play goal by DiTolla from Grady O’Bryan and Heller.

Jakob Nelson scored just over a minute after DiTolla to complete the three-goal comeback.

“That three or four minute burst is what we’ve had all season,” Adams said. “It was a little frustrating that that four-minute span was when we decided to play hard. We should be playing like that all game.”

AJ Frosh made 20 saves through regulation and overtime.

Downingtown scored on its second and third shootout attempts while blanking the Lancers.

Orange Lutheran played the majority of the game with only three defensemen. Ryan Sanchez suffered a hip injury in the first period, Brandon Washiashi was ruled out prior to the game with the flu and Ryan Adams suffered a concussion in Thursday's game.

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