Latrobe goaltender Shane Brudnok wants to finish his high school hockey career just the way it started -- with a state championship.
Brudnok started as a freshman for the Wildcats in 2009-10, when they won the last of their three state championships in a row.
Now, three years later, Brudnok is a leader on a team that has a chance to do the same thing.
The Wildcats are 9-1 and lead Class AA in goals-against (15) and goal differential (+62).
"[Having won a state title as a freshman] pushes me a lot," Brudnok said. "It was a huge accomplishment, probably the biggest accomplishment I've had. Now as a leader on the team, I can pass on that experience to the other players."
Individually, Brudnok said a goal of his is to be named league MVP. He figures to be in the conversation, with an 8-1 record, 1.69 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. The win total and goals-against average lead Class AA.
"In my opinion, he's one of the top three goaltenders in Western Pennsylvania," Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said.
One of Brudnok's best attributes is his size. At 6 feet 3, he takes away a good portion of the net.
"I can cut down on the angles, stay on top of the crease and get a lot of depth," Brudnok said. "I can make it so there is nowhere to go."
But Brudnok isn't just key to the team's defensive success. He also helps jump-start the Wildcats offense.
Latrobe has the second-most prolific offense in Class AA with 77 goals. The team has plenty of talented goal-scorers, led by Josh Singley and Adam Ferguson.
But many of the team's odd-man breaks start with a pass from the Wildcats goaltender.
"He is very active with his stick," Winebrenner said. "It's like having a sixth player on the ice for us. Guys are comfortable with him hitting them [with a pass] up the ice."
Brudnok has saved some of his best games this season for games against fellow PIHL all-star goaltenders. Brudnok has played five games against other all-star goaltenders, going 4-1 and allowing more than two goals just once.
His mere presence in the net has a calming influence on the Wildcats in big games.
"It's great to have that type of experience in net in big games," Winebrenner said. "The team has so much confidence in him and they can play loose instead of tight. When you play tight, you have a tendency to make mistakes."
Brudnok knows that once the playoffs come around, mistakes must be kept to a minimum if Latrobe wants to put another state championship trophy in the case.
"We have to have major discipline," Brudnok said. "We have to be on our game the whole time and can't take any stupid penalties. Just play hard and play as a team."
First Published January 24, 2013 5:00 AM