Kiski Area goalie Petika leads A-K Valley contingent in PIHL All-Star games

Sunday, January 19, 2020 | 5:28 PM

Kiski Area goalie Eric Petika got a nice wakeup call from his dad the morning after the PIHL All-Star teams were released a couple of weeks ago.

“He said ‘Check out the list! Look you’re on it!,’ ” Petika said. “It was a great way to wake up.”

Not only was it a nice start to Petika’s day, it was affirmation of a breakout season for the senior.

Petika, who ranks fifth in Class A with a .921 save percentage, is part of a large contingent of players from Alle-Kiski Valley teams that will participate in the PIHL All-Star games Sunday at RMU Island Sports Center.

The Class B game starts at noon with the Class A, AA and AAA games following.

Petika has a 7-5 record and carries 2.15 goals-against average with three shutouts. He only has surrendered more than four goals three times this season. He credited his defense with helping keep his numbers among the best goaltenders in Class A.

In his first All-Star game experience, Petika is looking forward to going up against the best in the classification.

“I want to see how I stack up against the big dogs in the league,” Petika said. “I want to see if I can compete with the top talent of every team and see if I can hang in there with everybody.”

Petika will be joined by teammate Michael Rayburg, who also is making his first All-Star appearance.

The rosters for each team have not been released, so the two Cavaliers teammates are unsure if they will be playing together or on opposing teams.

Rayburg, a junior, has 11 goals and two assists in 12 games with five goals on the power play.

“It’s going to be fun,” Rayburg said about the All-Star game. “I know a couple of the guys from other teams. It’s a good group of guys. It’ll be nice to play with some guys that are better than me, so I can learn from them. It’ll be a challenge.”

One participant Rayburg and Petika know well is Fox Chapel’s Colby Zmenkowski. They play on the Pittsburgh Huskies club team.

Zmenkowski is one of two Foxes who made the All-Star game along with defenseman Reed Troutman.

Foxes coach Cam Raidna will be part of the coaching staff.

Zmenkowski, a senior, has 12 goals and 11 assists to lead the Foxes in scoring. Troutman, a senior defenseman, has eight goals and four assists.

Freeport’s Cole Mitchell made the All-Star team on the original roster and Addison Stewart was added as a replacement. Yellowjackets coach Kelly Mason was added to the coaching staff as a replacement.

Mitchell, a junior, is in his first season of varsity hockey. He was the Class A Player of the Month in November and has six goals and 11 assists in 13 games.

“It’s something you always want to work towards and to make it my first year is good,” Mitchell said. “It’s a nice goal to reach, but I just have to keep working harder to get better. (Addison) and I are pretty good buddies, so we’ll have fun up there.”

Stewart, a junior forward, has eight goals and 10 assists in 14 games.

Burrell will have two representatives in the Class B game in senior defenseman Gio Palombo and junior forward Jonas Sopko.

Palombo only has played five games because of injury, but he leads the team with 12 goals and 10 assists and is coming a four-goal, three-assist game in a 13-4 win at McDowell.

Sopko has eight goals and 10 assists.

In Class AA, seniors Logan Schlegel and Nick Pushic will represent Plum. Mustangs coach Phil Mains will be an assistant coach.

Schlegel, who is in the All-Star game for the second time, missed six games because of injury before returning last Monday. Pushic remains out because of injury, but Schlegel said he is on track to return this week and play in the All-Star game.

Despite the extended absence, Schlegel is tied for fifth in Class AA in goals with 15. Pushic has seven goals and eight assists in eight games.

Schlegel is looking forward to reuniting with teammates from various travel teams.

“It’s great to make it a second time. I couldn’t be happier to play in the all-star game,” Schlegel said. “Playing in a game like that with my teammates and some former teammates is always fun. I have a bunch of buddies from (Penn-Trafford) and some friends for Hempfield that will be in the in the game, and I’m looking forward to playing with them again.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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