Fox Chapel hockey hopes to carry momentum into PIHL’s 2nd half
By: William Whalen
Sunday, December 23, 2018 | 8:45 PM
Wins don’t always show up in the win column, especially in hockey.
Ask first-year Fox Chapel hockey coach Cam Raidna which game was his team’s best so far this season, and one might expect to hear about any one of the four wins for the Foxes.
“In a sense, it was the Sewickley Academy game, but we wound up losing that one with about 1:19 on the clock and a great shot by that kid,” said Raidna, who was hired last last spring. “It was the first one-goal game we had to play all the way through.
“We were behind a couple goals. We had been down by a goal or two a couple of times, but we fought back to tie it. It was very positive and very encouraging to see.”
Fox Chapel (4-7) started the season either winning big or losing big and had yet to gut out every minute of a three-period game. There was no in between for a young and inexperienced Foxes team that lost a lot of production from last season while adapting to a new coach and system.
“We’re young, and we’re trying to find our identity,” Raidna said. “With a new coach, it could take half a season to find that identity.”
The 5-4 loss to Sewickley Academy had it all, including a dramatic game-tying goal by junior Ricky Downey.
Downey streaked down the right wing, drilled a shot at Panthers goalie Brady Mosberger, collected the rebound and went top shelf, right corner to tie the score at 4-4 with a little more than 12 minutes remaining in the game.
“It tied up the game. We had some momentum,” said Downey, who ranks second on the team in points (15). “We were looking for some motivation, and I really think that sparked our team.”
Eleven minutes went by and the inconsistency that is nearly synonymous with youth showed up again and Matthew Hajdukiewicz drilled home the winner to give the Panthers the 5-4 victory.
“We just need to stay the course, stay positive, and make sure we do the little things right,” Raidna said. “We need to clean up in the defensive zone and, if we do, we’ll give ourselves a chance to move into the playoffs.”
If the PIHL Class A postseason started this week, Fox Chapel would be playoff-bound for the second straight season. The Foxes are in seventh place in the North Division standings. They trail Freeport (5-6) by one game and have a two-game cushion on Blackhawk (2-9). The top eight teams in the division make the postseason.
“They’re aware of where we are in the standings, and they know what we need to do to stay there,” Raidna said. “We can always catch fire at any point.”
Fox Chapel started the season 2-2 with wins over Beaver and Blackhawk but have since struggled to rally momentum. The Foxes rode a two-game losing streak before downing Deer Lakes, 8-4, and then slipped into a three-game skid before unloading on Beaver, 11-4, to go into the holiday break.
“We needed a big win because we have a tough schedule coming up,” Downey said. “We have a ton of confidence going up to Meadville in two weeks.”
The Foxes are led by junior defenseman Reed Troutman, who has an offensive mindset from the blue line, leading the team in points (17) and goals (11).
Senior Mac Johnson is tied with Downey in points (15) but ranks second on the team in goals with nine.
“(Johnson) has the mind of a coach and is an extra set of eyes out there for us,” Raidna said. “He can score and knows how to crash the net hard.”
Colby Zmenkowski and Michael Kilmer have chipped in with seven goals, five assists and 12 points apiece.
Things don’t get any easier for Fox Chapel when the Foxes take the ice Jan. 7 after a 21-day break. Of the seven remaining games on the schedule, six of the teams are ahead of the Foxes in the standings.
“You never want to get too high or too confident but going into the second half, there’s always some looses you can improve on and turn some of those losses into wins,” Raidna said.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.
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