Senior forward confident South Fayette hockey can heat up after slow start

Sunday, January 17, 2021 | 9:01 AM

The 2020 portion of this high school hockey season was not kind to South Fayette.

A finalist in the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup playoffs two years ago, the Lions struggled out of the gate this season in Class AA with a 1-3-2 record before the season was paused due to the covid-19 pandemic on Dec. 12.

However, there is optimism for South Fayette thanks in part to the play of senior Ethan Szymanski.

“In a season that, thus far, has not gone the way he had hoped, he continues to show up and work hard every day when some may have quit,” South Fayette coach Matt Schwartz said. “Ethan is someone everyone on the team looks up to and follows. As the season resumes, our players and coaching staff will look to Ethan to help lead our team in our quest to perform at a much higher level, which we know we are capable of.”

Szymanski has produced three goals and four assists for a Lions team that is tied for fifth from the bottom in all of Class A in total offense.

“Unsurprisingly, Ethan’s been one of our strongest offensive players,” Schwartz said. “He’s scored a goal in each of our last three games and is a scoring threat every time he touches the ice. His effort and battle level have been consistently high, despite dealing with some nagging injuries.”

Szymanski has been skating on South Fayette’s top line with sophomore William Kiray and rotating juniors Jack Yoos, Trent Dalessandro and Joe Trinkala. Those are five of the top six scorers for South Fayette thus far.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Szymanski said. “The guys on my line are just as hungry as I am to win. They are all ears and ready to do whatever. It’s nice to have teammates who can make a play for you.”

Szymanski says he tries to lead his line and all of his teammates by example.

“I would call myself a leader,” he said. “I’m not always the most vocal guy on the ice, but this year, I’ve made it a point to practice like it’s a game. When I’m out there giving it 100%, I can see everyone else around me working their butts off too.”

When Schwartz is asked what makes Szymanski stand out on the ice, he thinks of a litany of positives that the senior excels in.

“The first thing you notice about Ethan when you watch him play is that he’s an exceptional skater,” Schwartz said. “Often the fastest player on the ice, he’s got a very quick first step, great top speed and is really strong on his skates.

“Ethan also has a very high compete level, which is hard, if not impossible, to teach. He has very good hands and is very creative with the puck. He has very good vision and sees the ice well, and he has a really quick and powerful shot. Lastly, Ethan’s endurance and stamina are impressive as we often rely on him heavily throughout each game.”

Does all of that add up to Szymanski playing hockey beyond his high school years?

“Without question,” Schwartz said. “If Ethan would like to play junior, college or even pro hockey, I’m confident that he can do so. With the right approach, discipline and work ethic, his potential is limitless as his skills are certainly next level.”

For his part, Szymanski would love to remain a Lions player, going from green and white in high school to blue and white in college.

“I’ve been looking to go to college at Penn State,” Szymanski said. “I would love to play club hockey up there.”

While South Fayette’s slow start this season has dug themselves a hole in which they are looking up at Baldwin, West Allegheny and Thomas Jefferson, Szymanski is optimistic for the rest of the season.

“I’m fully committed to making to playoffs,” he said. “The team’s record does not reflect how we play. We have had two overtime losses and played everyone else within a goal or two. We started out the season playing some of the best teams in AA. If we can sneak into the playoffs, I feel that we have a real shot at making a run for it.”


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