Quaker Valley hockey looks to shake off midseason slump

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Sunday, January 23, 2022 | 11:01 AM


It was an inauspicious start to the new year for the Quaker Valley hockey team.

After reeling off nine consecutive victories in the first half of the season, QV dropped consecutive decisions to Moon, 5-1, North Catholic, 4-3, and North Hills, 4-3, in early January.

The Quakers, nonetheless, maintained a firm lead atop the Varsity A Northwest Division ahead of McDowell, Blackhawk and Beaver.

“I’m disappointed in our three straight losses,” said QV coach Kevin Quinn following the Jan. 17 game against North Hills. “We knew the schedule would be difficult. We were not working hard enough to win.

“Our outlook is the same as always, to compete and win our division. We have the team to do just that. We got off to a great start. The key now is to get back on track and fast. How will we respond to this adversity? I have a lot of faith that we will find our game.”

How’s this for a response?

The Quaker skated past Wheeling Catholic, 9-3, one night after the loss to North Hills.

“The team played its best game of year,” Quinn said.

Quaker Valley’s leading scorers this season remain forwards on the top two lines: senior Kyle Rice, junior Ben Carlson and senior Noah Mattie, and juniors Luke Flowers, Braeden Steffey and Riley Moore.

After the win Jan. 18 against Wheeling Catholic, Carlson led the squad in scoring with 15 goals and nine assists, followed by Rice’s 11 goals and nine assists.

Steffey and Flowers had nine goals apiece, while Moore and Mattie were among the team leaders in the assists column.

Carlson, Flowers and Steffey netted two goals apiece versus Wheeling Catholic. Steffey also had three assists.

“The strengths of the team are our goaltending, strong defensive play and ability to run our systems in order to score some goals while giving up very few chances the other way,” Carlson said.

Although experiencing a few bumps in the road earlier this month, freshman goaltender Landon Buterbaugh has been an outstanding addition to the QV team thanks to his four shutouts, 2.54 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.

Buterbaugh turned back 282 of 315 shots on goal, as the Quakers (10-3) built up a 63-33 scoring advantage through 13 games.

Defensively, QV’s young netminder is complemented by seniors Max Quinn and Hayden Earlewine, and sophomore Will Watson.

“We just ended a three-game losing streak, and our losses come from a slump in work ethic and mental grit,” Earlewine said. “Whenever we work hard and respect ourselves and our opponents, we are an incredible hockey team.

“I have faith in our future success. Our team fills every role needed to have a successful hockey team. We have strong goaltending, experienced defense and an eager offense. Whenever everyone is working hard, there are no gaps in our play.”

Earlewine, who also participates in lacrosse, has been playing hockey for 12 years and is an alternate captain on the QV squad.

“My season is going pretty well,” he said, “with some ups and downs that coincide with our wins and losses. I’ve had serious varsity playing time for all of high school, so I am well versed in the systems and styles taught and used by coach Quinn.

“I enjoy the role I play as a defenseman. I have been trying my best to lead the team with my attitude and work ethic.”

Max Quinn, no relation to QV’s coach, also been an offensive presence for the Quakers with seven goals and 12 assists, including a goal and four helpers against Wheeling Catholic.

A defenseman who moves to center at times, Quinn is in his second season as team captain. He was an alternate captain two years ago when he became the first sophomore in program history to wear a letter.

The Quakers are a sure bet to qualify for this year’s PIHL postseason.

“Our team is a tight-knit group of brothers, and we have all been playing hockey together for a long time,” Earlewine said. “I have faith in our team. This is a great hockey team, and a lot is lined up in our favor.

“Coach Quinn serves as a coach and mentor, and we all are able to apply a lot of lessons learned from hockey to our lives outside of it.”

QV’s veteran coach — Quinn was the founder of the QV hockey program in 1997 — was asked what this year’s team will be working to improve prior to the playoffs.

“Our compete level,” he said. “We must work hard game in and game out. There are no freebies. We need to be a hard-working team.”

The PIHL playoffs are scheduled to start in early March.

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