Team success usually hinges on good goaltending, and good goaltending coupled with team success usually leads to the netminder being in the spotlight.
Those statements ring true for Canon-McMillan goalie Mario Eafrati, who picked up his third shutout of the season Monday night in a 3-0 Big Macs win over Pine-Richland.
Eafrati stopped all 46 of the shots he faced as the Big Macs picked up an important two points, which, heading into this week’s slate, puts them in a tie for third place in Class AAA with Peters Township.
In a lot of senses, Eafrati stole the game.
“From a coaching perspective, Mario does and did what every coach loves,” said Ryan Lamberger, Big Macs coach. “Forty-six shots is obviously a lot. Luckily for us, a lot came from the point, and he saw them through traffic. He was a brick wall for us, and that was huge. We really needed those two points against P-R, who’s got a ton of talent.”
The game pitted two of the top goalies in Class AAA, as Danny Staufer of the Rams was positioned across from Eafrati. Stauffer made 24 saves. One goal came in the first period and two came in the third. Taron Prezel, Josh Hrip and Corey Passieu scored for the Big Macs.
Eafrati stopped 15 shots in each of the first two periods, then 16 in the third to complete the clean sheet. It’s his third this season.
“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mario to make the big save, and it allows the forwards to take some chances,” said Lamberger. “Additionally, Stauffer is really good too. We knew it’d be low scoring, and I think Mario showed his game face in a big game.”
Lamberger and his staff are hoping that Eafrati rises to the occasion in the next three games too, with a “gauntlet” coming of Seneca Valley, North Allegheny and Upper St. Clair.
The Big Macs, with Eafrati between the pipes, have already clinched a spot in the Class AAA playoffs.
“You’ve got a goalie in Mario that tries to rise,” said Lamberger. “We try and insulate the quality of goaltender he is. In the past, I think the quality of chances he was facing were really high. We’re trying to give him a better chance.”
Lamberger said the team success is helping put Eafrati in the spotlight as well.
“Connor Strobel at Butler is one of the best goalies we’ve seen, but it’s hard to be recognized maybe if your team isn’t having as much success and you’re facing a barrage of chances,” said Lamberger. “It’s showing this year what Mario is capable of doing when he’s got everyone else helping him.”
Lamberger talked about Eafrati’s size and natural athletic ability helping his cause. Eafrati is also a tight end on the Big Macs’ football team.
“Mario is a big, athletic goalie. As far as he goes, his No. 1 goal is to make that first save and then use that athletic ability to make the second save if he has to,” said Lamberger. “His biggest attribute is to use that size to see through everything, and he’s great down low side to side.”
Eafrati and his Big Mac teammates will return to the ice against Seneca Valley at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Lamberger said he hopes Eafrati has the same look in his eyes.
“For him, it’s uber focus and making sure he’s ready to go,” said Lamberger. “You can see it when he’s really got it turned on. It’s almost as if he says, ‘Nobody is scoring on us.’ In warmups the other day, we could tell he was seeing it well and he came over to the bench and said, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be OK.’”