Short-handed Quaker Valley hockey team battles odds

Saturday, December 29, 2018 | 9:18 AM

A picture of Quaker Valley’s bench during a game against Hampton captured the team’s season-long challenge.

Seven players watched the action in a game the Quakers lost 3-0. The Talbots bench had 15 players, a typical amount of depth for a hockey team.

“We’re a 3A football school playing hockey against 5A and 6A football schools, and we’d never play those teams in other sports,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “If we’re being honest, every game we are short-handed. It’s our fourth year playing up a classification. It definitely wears on our depth, but we don’t stop working and competing to overcome adversity.”

It’s not just the record — 2-9 halfway through the season — that has suffered, according to Quinn and senior Noah Wiggins, who estimated he plays 35 minutes per game.

“We’ve had higher incidents of injury since moving up a classification,” Quinn said. “When that happens, we are vulnerable. That’s not to say we haven’t competed. We try to compete. We made it to a Penguin Cup Final and made it the semifinal another year, but playing up a level with fewer players has greater wear and tear on your kids.”

Reinforcements for a skeletal roster are not on the horizon because Quaker Valley doesn’t have a junior varsity team.

Instead, the Quakers’ inexperienced underclassmen log varsity minutes for their development.

Quinn said his team only can focus on controlling its effort to turn the season around to earn a playoff bid in its last seven regular-season games.

The Quakers have shown progress in three of their last four games.

Dylan Roebuck, who has played in only four games, scored a hat trick and added an assist in a 5-3 win over Penn-Trafford.

“Dylan Roebuck has been amazing for our team,” Wiggins said.

The Quakers have lost two one-goal games since Roebuck’s return, one in overtime to Upper St. Clair and another to Franklin Regional, which have a combined record of 14-4.

“Those are two good teams on the other side of the conference we had success against,” Quinn said. “So, we are right there, and we have to pile up points in the second half of the season. Our kids are excited for that opportunity.”

Quinn credited players such as Kevin Guerrieri, Daniel Fagan, Cole Musser, Joshua Bemis and Wiggins with helping the team compete against some of the best teams in Class AA.

“They’ve been integral in rallying us to maintain our competitiveness each game,” Quinn said. “I don’t know where we’d be without those players stepping up so often.”

Wiggins was forced into a goaltending role for one period with all of the team’s goalies out.

“We had to go in between periods and put a skater in there, not ideal, but we rallied around one of our leaders,” Quinn said. “Noah Wiggins has just been incredible with a great work ethic in his senior year. He put the gear on to finish the game, and we were skating with 11 players. That’s never happened in our history.”

That’s not the type of history the Quakers want to make.

“It’s definitely an uphill battle, but the last few games we’ve shown resilience, and we’ve shown we do belong,” Wiggins said. “The players that are here are here for the long run, and I have respect for them. I’ve never played on a team like this. You don’t have a few select players to carry the team. It’s an entire team effort. We’re more of a family, and we’re starting to learn lessons to turn it around.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.


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