North Xtra: Senior goalie out to keep nets 'puckless' for Hampton

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Cam Raidna had a hockey stick in his hand before he could walk and was playing hockey by the age of 4.

It wasn't much longer after that he gravitated toward the position of goaltender.

"I would go downstairs at our house to play with my dad and brother, and I was always the one protecting the net," Raidna said. "I just assumed the position. It felt natural."

For the past three seasons, Raidna has assumed the position in net for Hampton, recording a career record of 30-18-5, including a 12-7-1 mark this season for the Talbots (12-8-1) heading into the regular-season finale tonight against Moon Area.

He is also tied for the league lead in shutouts this season with four and was selected to the PIHL Class AA All-Star Game for the first time.

"The first thing he does is make himself so big in net," Hampton coach Matt Ranallo said. "He takes away all the angles and gets square to the shots.

"The shooter will get the puck and look up and there's nowhere to shoot and that will frustrate them. We have capitalized a lot on other teams' frustrations."

"The second thing is that he acts like a third defenseman. He can get to the puck and then make the first pass out of the zone so well. I haven't seen any other goalie who can do it as well as he can."

Raidna is also one of the team's leaders. Hampton's senior captains are Zack Kosick, Eric Leya and Zach Twerdok, but Ranallo said Raidna would have a "C" on his jersey if PIHL rules allowed the move.

"The PIHL rules say you can't have the goalie as the captain, otherwise he'd be wearing the 'C,'" Ranallo said. "He sets his goals high, and also sets the team goals high. The players look up to him and go to him for everything."

But when Raidna first came to Hampton, it was his teammates who helped him through the tough transition.

Raidna grew up in North Carolina, moving to Hampton as a sophomore. He admits it was difficult at first, but that changed once the hockey season started in the fall of 2011.

"It was easier once the season started and I had 15 guys I hang out with and who could help me out if I had any questions about the school," Raidna said.

Raidna went 8-4-2 his first season, helping lead Hampton to the Penguins Cup Class A semifinals.

Then last year, the Talbots moved up to Class AA and made the quarterfinals, where they were eliminated, 2-0, by eventual Penguins Cup and state champion Latrobe.

With a lot of talent returning, the Talbots looked like one of the Penguins Cup favorites coming out of the gates this season. Hampton started 7-0 with wins against top teams Erie Cathedral Prep, Armstrong, Plum and Chartiers Valley before a 4-3 loss to league-leading Bishop Canevin.

The loss to the Crusaders started a five-game losing streak, and the Talbots have been an up-and-down team ever since.

"I think we got a little ahead of ourselves early in the season and stopped playing our game," Raidna said. "When we're playing as a team and having fun, like early in the season, we have a chance to beat anyone."

Raidna has talked to Kosick, Leya and Twerdok, who all played at Consol Energy Center as freshmen in the 2011 Class A Penguins Cup title game when the Talbots lost to Mars, about the experience of playing for a league championship.

Raidna said all three told him they would do anything to play again at the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Ranallo thinks that with Raidna, the team has a shot.

"In our pregame talks, when we're going over the team matchups, we always start with goaltending and say we have the advantage there every game," Ranallo said.

"We have realistic goals to make the Penguins Cup and it starts with Cam in goal. When he makes that first save of the game, it gives everyone the confidence they need."

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