South Fayette hockey team takes pride in progress made

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Sunday, April 18, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The South Fayette hockey team finished at .500 for the season with a record of 8-8-2 and missed the PIHL Class AA playoff by only four points.

All in all, that’s pretty good for a team that didn’t win its first contest until the sixth game of the season.

“This team never gave up,” South Fayette coach Matt Schwartz said. “We finished with six one-goal losses and had a plus-15 goal differential playing in the toughest division in AA hockey. A lot of those one-goal losses could have very well been one-goal wins with a bounce here and there.

“I’m really proud of this group and think this team set the stage for the long-term success of our program.”

The Lions struggled out of the gates before Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandatory four-week shutdown of all scholastic sports in early Decemeber, starting the season 0-3-2.

“Four of those five were by one goal and two included losses to the class of AA, TJ and Baldwin,” Schwartz said. “As the season progressed, we placed a greater emphasis on puck possession and competing. As our schedule eased up, our boys started playing with more confidence and made better plays with the puck, which contributed to our success.”

The roster featured six seniors, including forwards Ethan Szymanski, Brendan Cooney, Tristan Cribben, Adam Maida, Aidan Pastorious and goalie Garrett Miller.

“The senior class did a great job for us this year,” Schwartz said. “Despite the ups and downs and, at one point, knowing that we were out of playoff contention, they continued to show up to practice, work hard and set the tone for the future of our program.”

Szymanski led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 14 assists. Miller finished with a 4-1 record with a goals-against average of 3.68.

Youth was served as well for the South Fayette hockey program.

Junior Joe Trinkala led the team in goals with 16 while fellow juniors Trent Dalessandro, Conor Parme and Jack Yoos all finished in the top eight on the team in scoring with a combined 19 goals and 19 assists.

Sophomores Billy Kiray, Tyson Tagmeyer, Dylan Timmins, Dylan Walsh, Wes Schwarzmiller and freshman Brayden Imler and Brady Fleck were all key contributors to the Lions’ success.

“I was very pleased with our young players and believe the future of South Fayette hockey is very, very bright,” Schwartz said. “This was our coaching staff’s second season with South Fayette, so the 10th-grade class will be the first class who will have had our staff all four varsity seasons. Therefore, we expect these young men to fully understand what’s expected of them and to know our points of emphasis and systems very well.”

Timmins tied Miller for the team lead in win between the pipes with a team best 3.13 GAA and an .882 save percentage.

“Both of our goalies worked really well together,” Schwartz said. “They were the last two guys out of the locker room of every game and supported each other throughout the year.”

Schwartz pointed to four games in particular that he called “special” this season for his Lions.

“I thought our best game of the season was our 4-1 victory over Mars,” he said. “It was a meaningful win for me as a coach, as my grandma passed away the day before and because it was my birthday. The boys sang Happy Birthday to me in the locker room after the game. It was an emotional win and one I’ll never forget.

“The last two games of the year against West Allegheny and Montour to end our season were special. We won by a combined score of 7-1 knowing that West Allegheny needed to beat us to make the playoffs and that Montour was a very good playoff team. Despite already being knocked out of the playoffs, our boys didn’t give up on the season and set the tone for next year.”

Next year will begin in about six months, and Schwartz and his staff can’t wait.

“We have a great group of young men that really care about improving and winning,” he said. “I really like our locker room and our team camaraderie. Some of our best players last season were in ninth and 10th grade, and they’re only going to continue to get better.

“We have a great senior class that’s close-knit and have played our coaching staff’s system for two years now. We have a handful of strong players coming up from eighth grade who may be able to contribute. Everyone is on the same page, and we’re singularly focused on making the playoffs and winning a state championship, and I think we all believe we are fully capable of doing so.”

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