Back Mountain Offense Heats Up On Ice
WILKES-BARRE — Brenden Jesse didn’t need to think twice about the question. A forward on the Back Mountain hockey team, the senior was asked what it would mean to win the NEPASHL championship and a Casey Classic title in the same season. “It’s huge. It’s my senior year, so it would be a great way to go out,” Jesse said. “Another championship would be pretty big. You always want to end your career on that winning note.” With the way Back Mountain’s offense is firing, another championship might be within the senior’s grasp. Jesse, Trevor Kruczek and Brian Hannah each scored four goals Monday night, as the Blackhawks scored 13 unanswered and Back Mountain rolled to a 16-2 victory over Pittston Area in the league semifinals at the Toyota SportsPlex. Back Mountain will square off with the winner of Wyoming Area and Hazleton Area in Monday’s final, slated to begin at 7:15 p.m. “Our team does a great job of passing the puck to each other,” Hannah said. “It puts a lot of pressure on the opponent. It definitely felt good to get this victory and, hopefully, we can come back and win the league for the second straight year.” Barry Noss won’t deny it. This is the best offense Back Mountain has probably ever had. Three different lines that can score the puck. Every player up and down the roster capable of lighting up the net. The numbers back it up. Back Mountain, regular-season champs with a 12-2 record, scored 110 times — 35 more goals than Pittston Area’s 78. In two playoff contests, the Blackhawks hold a 30-4 scoring advantage. “When you have wave after wave coming at you, it’s tough to stop and the defense does start to get tired,” Noss said. “As a coach, you hate to play a team with an offense like that. But if they are on your bench, it’s a pleasure to watch. This is probably the best offense we’ve ever had, and we’ve been doing this for 10 years.” The Blackhawks scored three goals in a 2-minute span during the second period after Pittston’s Marc Malvizzi cut the deficit to 3-2 with 12:44 left in the frame. And in a 30-second span to start the third period, Back Mountain scored three goals as the team ended the game by netting 13 unanswered. “Just to watch how they move the puck, and how they protect the puck, everyone is really all in here,” Noss said. “And it’s any kid at any time. I can ask any one of these players to step in front of the shot, and they will.” Pittston Area came out firing to start the semifinal, as Ryan Winters split two defenders and beat goalkeeper DJ Rosenkrans and helped the Patriots grab the 1-0 lead. It was an advantage that lasted less than a minute. On a breakaway after stealing the puck near mid-ice, Zachary Aben found Kruczek right in front of the net for the tying goal before Jesse’s shorthanded goal with 2:38 left gave Back Mountain the 2-1 edge at the first intermission. “We really do have three great lines that can move the puck and score goals,” Jesse said. “We play well as a team, and it comes together pretty well for us. Once we see an opponent score, we know that we have to score immediately to get back in the game.” Hannah and Malvizzi traded goals in the second period to keep the Blackhawk advantage at one before Back Mountain started pelting Pittston Area goalkeeper Ian Gartley with shots. Hannah record two more goals in the period, Jesse added his second and third scores, and Kruczek cleaned up an Aben scoring attempt with 4:55 left — giving Back Mountain an 8-2 lead entering the third period. “It would be amazing to win both of these titles in one year,” Noss said. “To have the opportunity is awesome. To go back-to-back with the league championship would be pretty special as well. We just want them to enter the game like it’s just another game on the schedule. We don’t want anyone thinking that it’s the last game or anything. It’s just one more game.” Contact the writer: email@example.com Pittston Area 1 1 0 — 2 Back Mountain 2 6 8 — 16 First Period: PA - Ryan Winters, 14:28; BM - Trevor Kruczek (Zachary Aben, Brian Hannah), 13:38; BM - Brenden Jesse, 2:38. Second Period: BM - Hannah (Kruczek, Aben), 13:58; PA - Marc Malvizzi (Trent Winters), 12:44. BM - B. Jesse (Matt Kubasti), 12:24. BM - B. Jesse, 11:41. BM - Hannah (Aben), 10:17. BM - Hannah (Aben), 6:53. BM - Kruczek (Aben), 4:55. Third Period: BM - Kruczek, 14:04; BM - B. Jesse, 11:31; BM - Kruczek, 11:11; BM - Aben (Kruczek), 11:04; BM - Logan Herbener, 9:10; BM - Herbener, 8:16; BM - Zachary Jesse, 6:37; BM - Hannah, 4:13.