Fox Chapel hockey hopes experience in close games helps with playoff push

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Sunday, January 5, 2020 | 4:12 PM


The Fox Chapel hockey team has played its share of close games this season.

Of the Foxes’ 11 games, eight have been decided by two goals or fewer, six have been one-goal games and four have gone to overtime.

Through it all, the Foxes have a 4-5-2 record and are third in a tight three-team race with Indiana and Kiski Area for two playoff spots in the PIHL Class A Northeast Division.

Their experience in close games — and the intensity that accompanies it — is a factor the Foxes want to use to their advantage in the second half of the season.

“It really gives our young group a lot of confidence going into the second half of the year,” second-year coach Cam Raidna said. “It lets them know that they can be in any game they want to be in as long as the play the right way.”

Fox Chapel is four points behind Indiana for first place in the division and two points behind Kiski Area. The Foxes play Kiski Area twice in the final four games, including the season finale, and Indiana in the second to last game.

In their eight games decided by two goals or fewer, the Foxes are 3-3-2. At one point, they played three overtime games in a row. They defeated Westmont Hilltop, 3-2, on a goal by Colby Zmenkowski on Nov. 18 and followed that with a 4-3 win over Chartiers Valley, with Reed Troutman scoring the winner. The Foxes lost in a shootout to South Park, 2-1, on Nov. 25.

“Taking the game to the end is always nerve-wracking, because you never know what’s going to happen,” Zmenkowski said. “It’s exciting in overtime. We’re used to the pressure, and that’s helped us.”

Zmenkowski, a senior and the captain, is Fox Chapel’s leading scorer with 15 points. He is tied with linemate Ricky Downey with a team-best seven goals. They are joined on a line with Ricky’s brother, Danny Downey, who is a freshman.

Raidna said the brothers have a friendly competition going to see who has the most points at the end of the season. They are tied with 11.

“Since I’ve been playing with Ricky the last few years, we have a lot of chemistry, but having Danny on the line really helps,” Zmenkowski said. “He has a lot of speed. He’s a good player right now, but he’s going to be a great player. He’s only a freshman, so he has a lot of potential.”

Fox Chapel gets depth scoring from Quentin Miske and Troutman among others. Raidna rolls three lines and is confident they can thrive in any situation.

“We dress 15 skaters, and all 15 guys have showed that they can play and that they deserve to be out on the ice,” Raidna said. “It’s nice to be able to trust all 15 players and know that they are going to put 100% into everything they do.”

Fox Chapel has a strong goaltending tandem in senior Tyler Radigan and sophomore Nash Wedner. Radigan missed the first four games with an injury but has a .921 save percentage since returning. Wedner is just behind Radigan with a .898 save percentage and had a 43-save performance in the loss to South Park.

“When we are playing those one- and two-goal games, they are keeping us in it,” Raidna said. “With Tyler being a senior, it really helps the team to know they have the same rock back there in net. Everyone has a lot of confidence in him.”

With Fox Chapel’s last four games being against divisional opponents, those results likely will determine who gets into the postseason. A rematch looms with Indiana on Feb 18. The Foxes lost to the Indians, 4-2, in the second game of the season with the final goal being an empty netter. Fox Chapel also plays fourth-place Freeport in that stretch. It beat the Yellowjackets, 3-2, on Dec. 3.

Divisional leaders Bishop McCort and North Catholic also remain on the schedule along with Sewickley Academy, which Fox Chapel plays Monday, Beaver and Wheeling Park.

Raidna is looking forward to taking his battle-tested group into those games as the Foxes try to secure a third consecutive playoff berth.

“We look at it as our playoffs starting before most teams,” Raidna said. “We’re looking forward to that. All of those games that we play that are nonsection and the games we’ve played so far this year will have us ready going into that stretch at the end.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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