New coach Sakolsky brings experience, enthusiasm to Shaler hockey program

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 | 5:56 PM

After two seasons away from coaching high school hockey, Cory Sakolsky is back.

The Plum and Cal (Pa.) graduate and former Butler assistant and head coach is the new man in charge at Shaler, and he is excited to see where the Titans program can go.

“I’ve not seen any of the (Shaler) kids play live, but I’ve been watching film for the last month and a half, games from last year, and I can see we have a lot of talented players in place,” said Sakolsky, who takes over a program that went 4-14 last season.

The junior varsity squad finished its 2019-20 season 10-5-2.

“I think there are a lot of hard-working kids who can go a long way,” he said. “Through all the talks we’ve had this summer, the players know that if they want to be successful, they have to hold each other accountable as much as the coaches are going to.”

Sakolsky, 27, a teacher in the Butler Area School District, started his coaching career in 2013 as a Butler assistant under Mike Geuntner

“I had started coaching when I was 21, so at that point, after the (2017-18) season, I was ready to step back a little bit,” Sakolsky said. “My wife and I wanted to start a family.

“Right after we got shut down in school, I just happened to look on the PIHL website and saw the Shaler opening,” Sakolsky said. “I am living in Gibsonia, so it’s only 15 minutes away.”

In his final season with the Golden Tornadoes, he helped lead the varsity team to the PIHL Class AAA playoffs. Butler finished the regular season 10-8 and earned the No. 5 seed in the quarterfinals.

North Allegheny, the No. 4 seed, got the better of the Golden Tornadoes in their playoff matchup.

“I learned a lot about the time consumption it takes to be a head coach, that difference from an assistant to the head coach,” said Sakolsky, who assisted Patrick Hammonds during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. “(Hammonds) was really dedicated to the game. He always called himself a student of the game. Going to the Penguins Cup finals with him and the team (in 2015) was a great experience.”

In 2015, Butler advanced to the Class AAA final at Consol Energy Center, where it lost 4-0 to Canon-McMillan.

“When I stepped in as the head coach (at Butler), I had those relationships with the players already built in,” Sakolsky said. “I had to be the guy who is kind of the authoritative figure with high expectations who also makes sure everything is accounted for. Those are the adjustments that have to be made.”

Sakolsky said the Shaler players have been together for dry-land training the past couple of weeks on the middle school football field. He said he is looking forward to having his players strength train in the school’s weight room when that can be done safely.

The hockey program, while not a WPIAL sport, is required by the Shaler Area School District to follow all of the district’s safety guidelines for offseason workouts.

With those guidelines in place, Sakolsky said the Shaler players are expected to hit the ice for the first time Sunday. Tryouts will be a feature of the on-ice return.

“Usually, tryouts are in May,” he said. “At that time, we were still in ‘red’ phase, and no rinks were open. We’re going to do two open skates that first week. Then we will start tryouts the following week with training camp, hopefully, at the end of the month. The season will come around pretty quickly, and this month upcoming will be accelerated.”

Sakolsky said he is pleased with the numbers: 52 players from middle school (20) and JV/varsity (32) and expects to see strong competition leading up to the season.

“Kids are going to grow, develop and learn,” Sakolsky said. “Once we implement things like nutrition guidelines and a strength and conditioning program a little more intensively, you are going to see kids who develop differently in terms of strength and speed and other aspects of their game.”

Matt Miller, president of the Shaler hockey organization, said he is impressed with the direction of the program with Sakolsky at the helm.

“Cory is very confident and enthusiastic,” Miller said. “He’s still a young guy, but he has a lot of coaching experience. He has a history of winning and helping his players make the most of their talents. He’s a teacher, too, so he has an appreciation of academics and balancing that commitment to being both a successful student and athlete.”

As of now, the 2020-21 PIHL season will have a regular start, but the regular-season schedule has not been released.

Shaler is in the Class AA Northeast Conference with Armstrong, Hampton and Plum.

“I haven’t heard anything specifically,” Sakolsky said concerning any changes to the season. “When I go to the PIHL website, they are running virtual meetings and doing things like that. The PIHL is not sanctioned by the PIAA, but when the PIAA came out and stated they were going to continue moving forward with the fall sports as planned, I assume that means the PIHL is going to try to do the same thing.

“Obviously, the covid restrictions are still in place, and we’ll have to wait and see over the next month or so if there will be any changes.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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