PIHL Player of the Week for Oct. 6, 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019 | 11:56 PM

The 2018-19 season was a tough year for Quaker Valley hockey.

Four players scored 10 or more points and the team only won five of its 19 games. The Quakers did make the postseason, as the fifth-place team out of Class AA’s Northwest Conference, but the run ended in the preliminary round of the playoffs.

What success Quaker Valley did have last season was in large part because of the play of then-junior goaltender Colin Rice.

Rice, who faced 261 shots in 11 games, was 3-5 with a .870 save percentage and a 4.36 goals-against average.

It was a year, according to longtime coach Kevin Quinn, in which Rice didn’t get much help from his defense, and seemed to always be facing a ton of shots.

The defense was a focal point going into the 2019 season, and so far, so good, both in the defensive zone, and between the pipes.

Rice and the Quakers are 2-0, with wins over Meadville, a high-scoring, fast-moving playoff team from last season, and Moon, another team that made the postseason in Class AA last year.

The senior goaltender made 41 saves in Monday’s season opener against the Bulldogs, allowing just one goal, before following the performance with a 23-save effort against Moon Thursday. He allowed three goals that night.

For his efforts, Rice is the first TribLive High School Sports Network PIHL Player of the Week.

“Monday was special, because we were playing a perennial power in Meadville, and it was a division game, which this year are very important with how the playoffs work,” Quinn said. “Colin was exceptional. He made a save in the third period that is one of the better ones I’ve seen, laying on the ice and reaching his hand back to make a save that had the Meadville guys with their hands and sticks over their heads.”

Quinn said it was one of those nights where Rice was seeing everything, and he followed up Thursday with a solid game in net, despite seeing fewer shots on goal against.

“He did face a couple of chances that were big and made some big saves,” Quinn said.

Rice was complimentary of his team’s play in front of him in both games.

“We knew we had to be good defensively against Meadville and the guys in front of me made things easier. I can’t take full credit for that game,” Rice said. “Thursday was kind of a scrappy game for us, and our offense really stepped up.”

The senior was a backup for two seasons to start his high school career, ultimately becoming the starter last season.

Quinn said he has seen a ton of improvement from Rice since the end of last year.

“We were flat out not very good in front of him last year, and his confidence waned at times last year, but he’s off to a great start this year,” Quinn said. “He’s risen to the occasion in a game that is so important to have good goaltending. If you have the better goalie, it gives you a much bigger chance to win.”

Quinn said Rice moves around a good bit because he isn’t a big kid, but that he’s a “good skater that uses his athleticism to be quick in the net.”

“What I’ve noticed is he has made huge improvements on breakaways and on pucks around the net covering them up and controlling rebounds,” Quinn said. “We’re trying to get better in front of him.”

Rice described his style as more of a hybrid, with not as much butterfly as others.

“Some people might think I’m a little too aggressive at times, but I don’t mind being aggressive at times,” Rice said. “Being aggressive can help make the big saves.”

He said the improvement in the team’s defense has been obvious through the first couple of games, and he expects things to continue to get better.

“We know how important it is to be good in division this year and how big it would be to have a good start right from the get go,” Rice said. “We can’t give up freebies, and we have to try and win as many as we can.”

The Quakers and Rice will return to action Oct. 14 against division-foe Mars.

Honorable mention

In Class B, this year’s Division 2 after a name change, Avonworth’s Joshua Perry scored four goals and assisted on the Lopes’ other three goals in a 7-4 win over Burrell Monday. Burrell was the national runner-up in the Open Division last season, though it did lose a lot of athletes to graduation. Perry factored in on all seven goals.

For Bishop McCort, in Class A, Adis Ultanbekov scored four goals and assisted on one in a 5-4 win versus Kiski Area. His fourth goal was short-handed and was the game-winner, coming with 41 seconds left in the third period.

Brady Moseberger, Sewickley Academy’s goalie, allowed seven goals to North Catholic, but made 56 saves in a loss, while Matthew Bibbee of Blackhawk stopped 38 of 40 shots in a 5-2 win against Fox Chapel Thursday.

Michael Felsing, one of Montour’s best players from a championship season last year, had two goals and four assists in Montour’s 9-3 win against Armstrong before adding an assist in a 9-1 loss to Baldwin later in the week.

Finally, in Class AAA, Peters Township’s Mark Lehman posted a five-point night in a win against Mt. Lebanon.

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