PIHL High School Hockey News and Notes – 11/29/2010

Monday, November 29, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Welcome to the first regular installment of “PIHL News and Notes” for the 2010-11 season, your continuing source for all the scholastic hockey happenings you may not hear about on “The PIHL Power Play.” The season is already a month old, so what better way to play catch-up than looking at some of the pleasant surprises around the league? After all, our annual previews can only predict so much based on the previous year.

For example, who knew Fox Chapel would go from worst to first, or that Harbor Creek would make such an explosive PIHL debut? We also have previews of our “Game of the Week” selections in each classification, including a battle for first place between two Class A powers. So join us once again for a look at what else is happening in each classification…


Foxes Slyly Rebuild

With the untimely passing of Jim Damp and the non-return of ’08-’09 leading scorer Charlie Williams, last season was a rough one to say the least for Fox Chapel (7-0-0). A 3-18-0 record, third-worst 51 goals and second-worst 121 allowed provide plenty of evidence. This year, though, things are different, and we’re talking 180 degrees here. The Foxes are currently tied with defending Penguins Cup champion Canon-McMillan for the top seed in the playoff bracket. Only two other teams have allowed fewer goals, and none have scored more to date. Granted, only two of Fox Chapel’s opponents to this point have winning records, but North Allegheny and Shaler both went down 4-3 in overtime, so this bunch can hang with the big boys. They can also dole out some punishment, taking down Mount Lebanon and Butler by a combined 16-0 count earlier this month. Senior Daniel Humes has paced the Foxes with 12 assists and 22 points, leading the class in the former category and tied in the latter. Fellow senior Jacob Friedland (7 G, 10 A) and junior sniper Christian Wirginis (10 G, 2 A) have provided their share of support among others. At other end, junior goalie Tyler Fannie has played every minute while posting a 1.97 GAA, 0.909 save percentage and two shutouts. December will be a challenging month for Fox Chapel. Shaler is in town to seek revenge next Monday in a Section 3 battle before Section 2 leader McDowell pays a visit on December 13 and perennial power Upper St. Clair follows suit a week later to close out the first half.

Hempfield Spartans (1-3-1) @ Penn-Trafford Warriors (3-1-1)
Tuesday, November 30, 8:15 PM @ Center Ice Delmont
The skinny: Penn-Trafford enters this contest clinging to a one-point lead in the section and riding a three-game winning streak during which its defense has shined with just seven goals allowed. The Warriors have also responded well under pressure with two straight one-goal victories. Meanwhile, Hempfield has managed a plus-three goal differential despite its losing record, scoring at least four goals per game. A lot of the credit goes to senior sniper Kyle Rosendale (14 G, 8 A), the class leader in goals and co-leader in points.


Gators Show Offensive Bite

If the 2011 Penguins Cup Playoffs started today, Gateway (2-4-1) would hold the tenth and final spot in its first year as a member of Class AA. This fact cannot really be attributed to a defense which has allowed 44 goals, the fourth-worst mark among its peers. No, the 56 goals scored by the Gators are the reason this group can claim the first playoff berth in the program’s five-year history. It’s been a team effort, too, with four players ranked among the top 10 scorers, including junior Troy McAteer (16 G, 9 A), senior Jeff Donatelli (3 G, 21 A), who lead the class in goals and assists respectively. McAteer has already registered three hat tricks while Donatelli is on a five-game assist streak, including two six-helper performances in November. Joining them on the leader board are young guns Taylor Siwik (9 G, 14 A) and Darren Johnston (10 G, 12 A). The only team to hold Gateway under four goals was Pine-Richland, and in fact the Gators have lit the lamp at least seven times in all but two games, including a 9-9 tie at Thomas Jefferson in the season opener. They have cracked double figures twice, defeating Franklin Regional 13-2 and Greensburg Central Catholic 13-3 over the past month. Freshman goaltender Tyler Perhac will need to grow his game quickly if this team wants to do more than just appear in the postseason, and this month will provide plenty of tests with a trip to Montour, a visit from West Allegheny and a home-and-home against Latrobe prior to the holiday break.

Montour Spartans (3-3-2) @ Peters Township Indians (4-2-0)
Thursday, December 2, 9:05 PM @ Ice-O-Plex SouthPointe
The skinny: Peters has been strong overall, boasting the second-best offense (43 GF) and third-best defense (13 GA) in Class AA. That balance has propelled the Indians to three straight wins by a 34-3 margin led by four goals and eight assists from junior forward Cole Snyder. Montour ranks right behind Peters in goals for and against, but has dropped three of its last four after a 3-0-1 start. Senior attacker Zach Milnarcik has paced the offense with 20 points (10 G, 10 A) in seven games.


Lions Maintain Momentum

In our 2010-11 PIHL preview, we talked about the second half of South Fayette’s (4-3-0) return season to the league, a 4-5-1 stretch which saw them squeak into the playoffs. Despite an early exit, the potential was certainly there to ride the momentum into this year, and the Lions have done exactly that, second only to Serra Catholic in Section 3. There have been problems, though, witnessed by a current two-game losing streak after a 4-1-0 start, a stretch which has them staring at a minus-13 goal differential thanks to being outscored 18-3 by Kittanning and Mars. The Planets also defeated South Fayette 12-1 earlier this month, but there have been some much better performances for the program which former Pittsburgh Penguin Bob Errey helped resurrect. The signature game would have to be a 3-2 triumph at Quaker Valley on October 25, the only loss suffered by the Quakers thus far, in which sophomore goalie Nicholas Blocher made 33 saves. Offensively, junior Nick Shultz (3 G, 6 A) and sophomore Chad Errey (4 G, 3 A) have helped set the tone for a group which has seen 13 different players register a point already. The Lions will have to roar loudly to end the current skid, hosting powerhouse programs Westmont Hilltop and Hampton on Tuesday and Thursday of this week. Having held opponents to a combined total of six goals when emerging victorious, though, South Fayette already knows what it will take to turn things around.

Quaker Valley Quakers (5-1-0) @ Mars Planets (5-0-0)
Tuesday, November 30, 8:30 PM @ BladeRunners Warrendale
The skinny: The defending Penguins Cup champions have allowed a mere four goals thus far, the best in the class. Senior goaltender Tyler Stepke has been especially impressive with a 3-0-0 mark, 0.67 GAA, 0.951 save percentage and one shutout. Meanwhile, Quaker Valley is tied with Mars for third-best among its peers with 46 goals in returning to its old form. Sophomore playmaker John Pilewicz (3 G, 12 A) has helped spread the wealth with sophomore Clayton Bouchard (7 G, 6 A) and junior Jason Lottes (7 G, 6 A) reaping most of the benefits, including three power play tallies apiece.


Harbor Creek Bursts onto Scene

This is not the first time a brand new program (or a returning one) has made an immediate impact in the Open Class, but it’s hard to say any have done so more emphatically than Harbor Creek (6-0-0) in 2010-11. It’s hard to argue with a perfect record, not to mention class-best totals of 44 goals scored and just eight allowed. They haven’t all been cupcakes, either, considering half of the Warriors’ victories came against teams with winning records, with perhaps the most satisfying coming against Section 2 opponent Blackhawk by a 6-1 margin on October 28. The most interesting thing has been the raw balance of this group’s offense. There is usually at least one superstar leading the way in this classification, but not the case here with five different players scoring five goals each, though stats for Harbor Creek’s two games against West Virginia teams were not available at press time. Two of those are juniors Josh Green and Zak Tomblin, who are also tied for the team lead with 12 points. It has also been a team effort between the pipes, with seniors Zach Cook and Jacob Lozowski getting credit for two wins apiece so far. Cook has the better stat line in the early going with a 1.00 GAA and 0.913 save percentage. December will see the Warriors host John Marshall this upcoming Sunday before three straight road games against Linsly, Wheeling Park and Morgantown, with the latter two seeking revenge for November defeats. The season is still young, but all right now this program looks like a serious contender for the 2011 Nailers Cup title

Ligonier Valley Mounties (3-3-0) @ Ringgold Rams (2-4-1)
Thursday, December 2, 9:20 PM @ Rostraver Ice Gardens
The skinny: The defending Open Cup champions have struggled since moving over to the Chiefs Cup side of the tracks, losing three straight despite a third-best 42 goals. Senior Kevin Claybaugh continues to impress, though, leading the class with 21 goals and 30 points. Meanwhile, Ligonier Valley boasts the third-best defense with 15 goals allowed, allowing more than three only once. Senior backstop Mathew Erlichman has been steady, picking up all six decisions with a 2.42 GAA and 0.903 save percentage.

Don’t miss the sixth season premiere of “The PIHL Power Play” this Wednesday on the MSA Sports Network as Josh Rowntree and Adam Hoerner drop the puck. We’ll hear from Canonsburg forward Brett Oldaker about what it’s like going from hunter to hunted and delve into Fox Chapel’s explosive start with head coach Cory Rome. Plus, we’ll check in with PIHL Commissioner Ed Sam and discuss some of the big stories around the league, including some notable programs not on the schedule this year. It’s all happening on Wednesday night from 8:00 to 9:00 on your exclusive home for the 2011 Penguins Cup Playoffs, the MSA Sports Network!

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