Quaker Valley hockey looks for momentum with playoffs looming
By: Joe Sager
Monday, February 12, 2018 | 11:00 PM
While its record might not indicate it, things are starting to trend in a positive direction for the Quaker Valley hockey team.
The Quakers (9-8-1-0) locked up a PIHL Class 2A Penguins Cup playoff spot. With one game left, it's possible they could claim the North/West Division's No. 3 seed. And they're getting injured players back in their lineup.
“I think we've only played with a full lineup a couple times this season,” Quaker Valley senior Ben Kuzma said. “Injuries have plagued us, but it's allowed a lot of other people to step up in a big way. We don't like having anyone out, but it's opened up a lot of opportunities for other players, which is good. It's given us a little more confidence that we could accomplish what we have even with some of our top players being out.”
Injuries have sidelined top forwards like seniors Jake Giotto, Ryan Quinn and Beau Tomczak. Giotto and Quinn returned to the ice. Tomczak, who leads the team with 18 assists despite missing five games, could come back for the team's last regular-season game against Hampton or for the start of the postseason.
“Getting RQ back was huge for us. He is one of our best players. He helps a lot defensively, too. Cole Musser is out for the year, but Beau should be coming back,” Giotto said. “Beau will give us a whole other level of play. He is so skilled and can help get the puck through the neutral zone.”
Another positive for Quaker Valley: It had a two-week layoff between its 3-2 loss to Shaler and the final regular-season game against Hampton.
“Having a couple weeks off could be detrimental to some teams. With our state right now and some guys dealing with injuries, it's beneficial,” Giotto said. “We need to get refocused. We're not executing like we want to be. These next few weeks will try to help get everyone on the same page and focused and ready for playoffs. We know it's a new season then.”
The Quakers would like to finish in the No. 3 spot to avoid play-in games involving the No. 4 and 5 seeds from both divisions. They had a chance to gain ground in their last game but fell behind Shaler, 3-0, and a comeback came up short in a 3-2 setback.
“We know we missed out on a lot of opportunities. That Shaler game was tough. If we beat them, we had a chance of finishing second. We got in a hole pretty quickly, though. It was tough for us,” Giotto said. “The forwards started slow, myself included. It's a credit to Shaler, though, because they came out fast and hard and won a lot of individual battles we know we need to win. Their goalie played really well, and they are a really good team, too.”
Quaker Valley needs Hampton to lose its next game and needs to beat the Talbots (8-5-1-3) in order to have a chance at the No. 3 spot. A loss could push QV in the No. 5 spot, as well.
“We'll take that game and try to get a result. Wherever we land by the start of playoffs is fine,” Giotto said. “The postseason is a new season for us. Hopefully, we'll go into it healthy.”
Kuzma can see things picking up with the Quakers.
“We know that we need to bounce back to make a playoff push. Momentum is everything. Just look at how the Penguins did last year: They picked it up at the end of the season and had a ton of momentum going into the playoffs and did well,” he said. “We're starting to get our work ethic back to where it should be. I think we'll have a good push against Hampton and, hopefully, make a good playoff push. We have seven seniors on the team. I think we're all very motivated right now to do the best we can and finish the year on a high note.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.
Tags: Quaker Valley