Offense catching up to defense as Chartiers Valley hockey hopes for strong 2nd half

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Thursday, January 2, 2020 | 5:42 PM


With only three returning varsity players, Chartiers Valley hockey coach Paul Bonetti thought his team might be in for a challenging season. When the Colts dropped their first two games, it looked as though his suspicions were confirmed.

At the holiday break, their record was a pedestrian 5-4-1-1 (including an overtime loss and shootout loss), and they were in last place in the four-team PIHL Class A Southwest. But the young Colts have shown signs of life.

They upset division-leading Thomas Jefferson, 3-1, after that season-opening two-game skid — TJ’s only loss through its first 13 games — then, heading into the holiday break, the Colts won three straight.

“We could have a better record, but we have been playing well,” Bonetti said. “I had a lot of these guys last year. I coached the JVs and the varsity (last season), so a lot of these guys who played JVs were familiar with what I do at the varsity level.”

Goaltending was crucial to keeping the team afloat while the offense struggled to score. The combination of Logan Marnik and Sam Watchek has helped give the Colts chances to win night-in and night-out.

Marnik, a junior who was in goal for the win over Thomas Jefferson, has proven to be one of the top goalies in Class A. In seven games before the holidays, he posted a .929 save percentage and 2.77 goals-against average. Watchek, a senior, had a .906 save percentage and 3.00 GAA in four games.

“I just try to do my part and let the rest of the team do their part,” Marnik said. “It’s good to know you’re capable of keeping the team in every game.

“It’s nice to see that we have two great goaltenders, and we’re both doing what we can to contribute.”

The goalies are getting an assist from an improving defense led by junior Matt Sedlak, whom Bonetti called “our most solid, consistent defenseman.”

Of late, the once-stagnant offense has started to stir. After scoring 10 goals over their first five games, the Colts erupted for seven in a win over Sewickley Academy. In the three-game winning streak, they had 16 goals.

Three players are tied for the team lead with eight goals: senior Luke Vaughn, junior Jax Fodor and sophomore Greg Kraemer.

Early on, many of the goals Chartiers Valley was scoring were — to use Bonetti’s word — “greasy.” As the season has progressed, the Colts have gained more confidence on offense and started scoring cleaner goals.

“As people are getting more comfortable with the puck, they look toward the net instead of just dumping it and chasing it,” Vaughn said. “Probably in the first half (of the season), it was a lot of those gritty, garbage goals. … Now, we’re looking to make smarter plays rather than just throwing the puck in.”

With only two teams from the four-team division qualifying for the playoffs, the Colts have their work cut out for them. Bonetti hopes the recent momentum carries into January and February to give his team a shot at sneaking into the playoffs.

CV closes with a critical stretch against division foes North Hills, South Park and Thomas Jefferson. The hope is for the offense to continue catching up to the defense in order to make a strong stretch run.

“We’re scoring more goals now than we did at the beginning of the year,” Bonetti said. “I toyed with a couple of different ideas when we weren’t scoring, but now I think we are pretty well set with line combinations, and I think that has helped as well.”

Said Marnik: “It’s about the offense and defense working together. Every game is important, and we can’t afford anymore losses.”

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