Chartiers Valley hockey comes charging out the gate

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Sunday, December 13, 2020 | 8:40 PM


While the high school winter sports season was trying to get off the ground in December, high school hockey was into its second month of ice action.

One of the PIHL Class A teams that galloped out of the gate swiftly was Chartiers Valley.

The Colts led the way in the Southwest Division thanks to a veteran team that is strong in all aspects.

“This year’s team is the most complete and experienced team we’ve had in the past five years,” Chartiers Valley coach Paul Bonetti said. “I believe that we’ve got the best goaltending in the entire league, and that puts us in a position to win every game.

“We’ve got a nice balance among three lines on offense, and our defense is a very solid group. Admittedly, I can be demanding and have high expectations for performance, and that can be tough on younger or inexperienced players who have not had previous exposure to being challenged in that way. Most of this year’s team has been practicing or playing for me for three or four years, so there isn’t as big of a learning curve coming into this season.”

In hockey, it starts between the pipes, and obviously Bonetti feels the Colts are strong there.

In the Colts’ first five games, senior Logan Marnik had four wins, two shutouts, a goals against average of 1.04 and a save percentage of .965.

“He’s extremely technical in his approach to the game and is one of the most competitive hockey players I’ve ever coached,” Bonetti said. “I really enjoy coaching players who are highly competitive by nature, and when you combine that with the intellect and abilities that Logan possesses, it’s really special.”

Offensively, the Colts have been led by junior Greg Kraemer. He was averaging over two points per game when he registered six goals and six assists in the CV’s first five contests.

“Greg is our most naturally gifted player and is obviously very talented,” Bonetti said. “He’s got all of the physical aspects of hockey down in skating, passing and shooting. But what I like best about Greg is that he is very coachable. He listens to instruction and is able to put what he has learned into his game, which is already at a very high level.”

Kraemer plays on the Colts’ top line with senior captain Jackson Fodor and junior Tommy Phillips.

“Tommy is an extremely cerebral player, and Jackson is a tenacious player who our opponents hate to play against,” Bonetti said. “The combination of their three distinct styles has worked well for us so far this year.”

The PIHL had its share of postponements and schedule changes due to the effects of covid-19. What have been some of the toughest challenges for Chartiers Valley playing scholastic hockey during a pandemic?

“Well, right now, our practice rink at Mt. Lebanon has been closed for a couple of weeks and will be closed for at least one more week,” Bonetti said. “We are scrambling to find practice ice, so we’ve been able to schedule a couple of scrimmage games, which I don’t normally do during the season, using other teams’ ice in order to keep us skating. Our players have had to practice with masks on, we’ve had games rescheduled, and I’ve had to monitor the number of players in our locker rooms at any given time.

“I do think that the PIHL has done a terrific job working with the teams to move games around and keep our players, officials and fans as safe as possible. I try to do my part as well.”

Last year, Chartiers Valley finished 10-7-3 but did not make the Penguins Cup playoffs in a deep Class A field.

While Bonetti is happy with the Colts’ start, he realizes they can and need to play better.

“There is room for improvement in all areas of play for us,” he said. “Certainly, our team defensive play could be much better. We need to continue to develop some of the younger players in our organization and put them into positions to be successful so that they can contribute to our varsity team. Finally, as a coach, it is my obligation to the team to continuously work to improve myself so that in turn they are being given an opportunity to learn, develop and also given a chance to win every game.”

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