Despite missing a few key players against a solid Plum team, Bishop Canevin accomplished a feat a few weeks ago that it had on 499 other occasions in the program's history.
The Crusaders won.
They destroyed the Mustangs, 7-0, to become only the sixth team in PIHL history to reach the 500-win plateau. Four of the other teams -- Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon, Central Catholic and Bethel Park -- are Class AAA schools, while Kittanning currently competes at the Class A level but at one time played in Class AAA. Bishop Canevin is the lone Class AA team on the list.
"It was a pretty significant win," said Kevin Zielmanski, who is in his sixth season as Bishop Canevin's coach when referring to the Nov. 1 conquest of Plum. "It reflects well on the program and how successful it's been.
"I think it's significant for the players and coaches who have come through here. It's a source of pride."
Included along with those wins are six Penguins Cup titles and four state championships, the last of which occurred two seasons ago. The Crusaders have shown early this season that they are a contender to add to those totals.
Bishop Canevin (4-0-1) started its season with four games against four playoff teams from last season.
First, the Crusaders took on Pine-Richland, which defeated Bishop Canevin in the Penguins Cup quarterfinals last season. This time, behind 27 saves from Nikita Meskin, the Crusaders beat the Rams, 2-1. Meskin then stopped all 17 shots he faced in the win against Plum.
A junior goaltender, Meskin won 13 games for the Crusaders last season, but following the season he missed five-and-a-half months after dealing with a health issue. He returned shortly before the season kicked off and has been stellar so far for Canevin.
"Nikita has played very well," Zielmanski said. "He was outstanding against Pine-Richland."
Meskin rested against defending Class AA Penguins Cup champion West Allegheny on Nov. 15, giving the Crusaders' other talented goaltender, Ryan Tucker, some time in net.
Tucker stopped 16 of 20 shots but found himself facing a loss until Patrick Large scored with 41 seconds remaining in the game to even the score at 4. The game ended in a tie.
Large, who plays on a line with his twin brother, Austin, and Chris Reda, also scored the go-ahead goal in the final minutes in the win against Pine-Richland.
The three were the top three scorers for the Crusaders through four games and combined to score two goals and an assist in the team's comeback victory against Chartiers Valley on Nov. 12.
The Colts jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but Bishop Canevin rallied for the next six goals, then held on for a 6-5 win.
Zielmanski believes his team's ability to continually come back is a product of the winning culture of the program.
"When a program has that type of success, it learns how to win," Zielmanski said. "The last thing I say to the guys in the locker room is to find a way to win. That's what we've been able to do."
Only five other teams in PIHL history have been able to do it more.hsother