In Chartiers Valley hockey program, young roster doesn’t mean low expectations

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Sunday, October 23, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Paul Bonetti is back for the ninth year of his second stint as head coach of the Chartiers Valley hockey team. He coached the Colts from 2004-2006, then returned in 2016.

Even though the Colts did not make the playoffs last season, and he has had offers to coach elsewhere, Bonetti made it clear why he is more than happy as bench boss at Chartiers Valley.

“There are good kids at Chartiers Valley, and I care about them and want to see them flourish on and off the ice,” Bonetti said. “I am obsessed with winning another state championship, specifically at Chartiers Valley. Two years ago, we were able to make it back to the Penguins Cup for the first time in 30 years. It’s been a little longer (1986) since we’ve had that state title, but it’s coming.”

Bonetti knows there will be growing pains early in the 2022-2023 season. This team of Colts is very raw with youth up and down the roster.

“We are a very young team with only three seniors, and some ups and downs are expected,” Bonetti said. “We will at times have five freshmen on the ice at once. All of our players need to understand that there is a very high degree of effort and attention to detail that is required to win consistently when playing hockey at the varsity level. If our team lacks focused effort or neglects details, it could be problematic.”

However, a young roster doesn’t have to mean season-long struggles on the ice.

“We have set a very clear goal to make the playoffs this season,” Bonetti said. “Other teams have shown recently that youth is not an excuse for poor play and that teams can thrive while also being younger than average.”

An example of the early up-and-down play expected from these Colts came in their first two games of the season.

Chartiers Valley opened the season with a loss to Montour, 9-4. Then a week later, the Colts shut down Beaver, 7-1.

“My biggest concerns are always the same: slow starts, poor puck management, lack of attention to detail and worst of all, weak effort,” Bonetti said. “The good news is that I believe we’ve got a group that won’t quit. We went 3-2-1 in the preseason and came back to win or tie in all of those games where we got points. We definitely need to find a way to do better at the beginning of games as the trend of slow starts dates back to last season. We implemented some new ideas before the Beaver game.”

Young players aren’t the only thing new this season at Chartiers Valley. Bonetti has also brought in some new faces as assistant coaches who he believes will help the team and the players grow on and off the ice.

“I am always excited to see how our team matures and improves over the course of the season,” Bonetti said. “With the assistant coaches we have recently brought on, I believe that we have assembled the premier coaching staff in our classification and as such, I am hoping to see unparalleled improvement from both our younger group and the older players on the team.”

While time will tell when it comes to the Colts nightly lineup, Bonetti believes they have a good starting point with a solid top line, three strong defensemen and a young goalie with some experience.

“Sophomore center Brady Nairn had a couple of goals in our first game and also plays great in our defensive zone,” Bonetti said. “His linemates are juniors Romeo Isoldi and Chris DeAngelis. I think they will be one of the better lines in our classification.

“On defense, junior Sean Taylor, senior Ian Colberg and junior Luke Hinds tend to lock it down. Sophomore Matthew Colberg is returning as our goaltender after starting all of last year as a freshman.”

Chartiers Valley is once against in Class A in the PIHL this season.

The classification underwent big changes with the league going from four divisions of four teams each plus Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central Catholic in their own two-team division to a Gold Division with 12 teams and a Blue Division with 11 teams.

Chartiers Valley was in a division with North Catholic, Moon and North Hills last year. Now it is in the Gold Division with those three teams plus Montour, Avonworth, West Allegheny, Quaker Valley, Erie McDowell, Blackhawk, Wheeling Park and Beaver.

“I don’t want to get myself into trouble here, but I don’t like it,” Bonetti said. “The league typically does a good job and had a competitive formula that generally worked, so I’m not sure why they decided to abandon that after many years. Several teams moved into our classification, but nobody moved up. Make no mistake, we will play anybody at any time, but the reality is that we are playing against teams that have hundreds of students more than we have at Chartiers Valley, which puts us and many other teams at a natural competitive disadvantage from the start.

“If there is no upward mobility allowed for these teams that should rightfully participate in a higher classification, the danger exists of that becoming extremely onerous for the dedicated pure teams that struggle for numbers. In Week 1, all of the teams that moved down won, and all except one that moved down won by at least four goals.”

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