PIHL Team of the Week for Nov. 3, 2019

Sunday, November 3, 2019 | 10:03 PM

Cathedral Prep hosted Bethel Park on Tuesday in what was anything but another early-season PIHL game.

Just 10 days following the death of Rambler senior forward John “Jack” Schoenig in the State College area, his teammates returned to the ice for their first game since the heartbreaking news.

Schoenig died Oct. 19. He was 17.

“When it happened it was gut-wrenching. It’s something we can never prepare for,” Cathedral Prep coach Alex Luddy said. “I can’t put into words how proud I am of the guys for coming together as a team, as friends, as a support system for each other. It’s been amazing to see.”

Luddy said the sense of community has grown, not only with the hockey team, but in the school and the community.

“The school has let us spend time with the kids. The parents have been awesome doing team dinners, and the kids in the school did a candlelight vigil on the beach and a bunch of things to just spend time with each other,” Luddy said. “Everyone has been so supportive of each other, and it’s great to see.”

It’s all for Schoenig, who was a big piece of the hockey team and a vibrant personality in school.

“Jack was a great kid. There’s no way around it. He had a personality that brightened up the room,” Luddy said. “He was one of our senior leaders this year, and he just brought an energy to the rink that was contagious. He worked his tail off in the offseason, and he had one of the best shots I’ve ever seen as a young man. He was a terrifying physical presence on the ice, but he was just such a great kid.”

Tuesday’s return to the ice was a chance for the Ramblers to have a release.

Luddy said players wanted to return to practice as soon as possible, even the Monday after Schoenig’s death, when they were scheduled to play Pine-Richland. The game was postponed, but the Ramblers practiced for an hour. Luddy said they wanted him to run a hard practice.

Fast forward to Tuesday, and the community packed Mercyhurst Ice Center for the scheduled contest against Bethel Park.

Cathedral Prep played the opening 11 seconds with four skaters and a goalie to honor Schoenig, who wore the No. 11 sweater. The Ramblers also retired that jersey before the game.

After the emotional beginning, it was business as usual: a competitive hockey game against a good opponent. The Ramblers came out on top.

After a scoreless first period, Bethel Park scored first, 4 minutes, 52 seconds into the second. Only 42 seconds later, the Ramblers tied the score when Tyler Balzer and Eric Schwab assisted on a Joe Agresti goal.

Agresti again scored at 15:48 of the third period after a competitive, back-and-forth period, to set the final score at 2-1.

“We left it up to the boys if they wanted to play, and it was unanimous. We would’ve need an army to keep the guys off the ice,” Luddy said. “They said it was a tough game to prepare for, not only because of the situation with Jack, but because of how good Bethel Park is. It was a great environment, and it lifted the guys up. They played really well.”

In the end, Luddy hopes the games, practices and other things can help the players move forward while remembering their friend.

“I think it was a good release for them, just to kind of get away from it. Not forget about it, because obviously it’s always going to be with them, but to get back to what brought them all together to begin with,” Luddy said. “It’s going to be a long road, and it’s going to be with them for the rest of their lives, but they have created bonds that will be with them forever too.”

Honorable mention

Butler The Golden Tornadoes picked up two victories last week, winning in a shootout Monday 2-1 over North Allegheny, before picking up a victory on Thursday by the same score in regulation over Pine-Richland

West Allegheny It was a high-scoring 9-1 victory for the Indians against Meadville. Four players had four-point nights, and Josh Ferry added 26 saves in the win

Latrobe The Icecats’ 6-2 win over Plum handed the Mustangs their first loss and moved Latrobe to 4-0 on the season

Norwin The Knights are 5-0 as a result of a 7-0 win over Wheeling Park.

South ParkThe Eagles won twice, 7-0 over Sewickley and 6-0 over Beaver. Against the Bobcats, South Park won the shots on goal battle 57-8.

Thomas Jefferson The Jaguars picked up two wins, defeating Westmont Hilltop 6-1 on Monday and beating Freeport 10-3 on Thursday.

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