PIHL Class AAA Preview
The 2011-12 high school hockey season is back, starting Oct. 24. Changes have been made. Blades have been sharpened. Exceptional players have moved on to make way for new talent, eager to begin the season. No matter whether you are a new player, a retired vet, a fan or a supportive parent, this upcoming season is sure to deliver an emotional rollercoaster filled with surprises.
Much like the players, we have circled the following games on our calendar…
Last year the Upper St. Clair Panthers were crowned champions of the Penguins Cup after defeating the Canon McMillan Big Macs by a final score of 4-3 giving the Panthers their first championship in 20 years. Can USC come back to the finals this year? We will have a chance to review their progress made this summer on October 24th as the two kick off their 2011-12 season facing off on Upper St. Clair’s home ice – the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon.
USC (13-6-1) was ranked fourth in their class last season trailing behind Fox Chapel (17-2-0), Canon McMillan (14-4-1) and Bethel Park (13-4-2) respectively.
However, USC led the division with six of the top 50 scoring leaders, none of which are returning this season. Of those scoring leaders, the Panthers have lost CJ Murray, who finished last season first place in the division with 58 points. USC has also lost Justin Selep (18-19-37 in 16 GP), Stephen Gielarowski (13-21-34 in 18 GP), Luke Stork (18-15-33 in 17 GP), Michael Segerdahl (10-15-25 in 20 GP) and Parker Philips (6-14-20 in 17 GP).
Three of USC’s four goal-scorers in last season’s final game have left, but Michael Sweeney, who shot the game-winning goal in overtime, will be coming back for another year. Sweeney finished last season with a record of 4-5-9 in 16 GP. This will likely be a rebuilding year for the Panthers.
Canon McMillan had the second most scoring leaders with five in the top 50. The Big Macs have lost their top player Brett Oldaker (19-26-45 in 18 GP) to graduation but the other four will be returning this season: Zack McKown (16-18-34 in 19 GP), Alexander Baskakov (13-15-28 in 18 GP), Anthony Tonkovich (9-14-23 in 17 GP), and Artem Prus (9-13-22 in 18 GP). It will be an adjustment without Oldaker who scored two goals in the finals, but Canon McMillan still looks promising.
Upper St. Clair: Sweeney, Conner Ackerman (3-2-5 in 12 GP) and Andrew Schmitt (1-4-5 in 19 GP)
Fox Chapel vs. Bethel Park
Another game to watch out for is the Fox Chapel Foxes versus the Bethel Park Blackhawks at Bethel Park’s home ice December 22nd. The last time these titans of the AAA competed, Fox Chapel emerged victorious with a final score of 9-3. Scoring the most points for Fox Chapel was #25 Christian Wirginis with three goals.
Wirginis will be playing for the Foxes again this season but they have lost three of their leading scorers: Daniel Humes (26-28-54 in 19 GP), Jake Friedland (18-26-44 in 19 GP) and Will Lorenz (6-14-20 in 19 GP).
Although Fox Chapel was number one in the division with 34 points, they trailed behind Bethel Park in scoring leaders. Bethel Park had four of the top 50 while Fox Chapel had three, all of which no longer play for the Foxes.
Like Fox Chapel, Bethel Park has one returning leader, Zach Volzer who walked out of 2010-11 with marks of 13-12-25 in 19 GP. The Blackhawks have lost talented players Daniel Kucerovy (21-15-36 in 16 GP), Michael Seifert (10-16-26 in 19 GP) and Mike Shipley (7-14-21 in 18 GP). Seifer and Kucerovy each had an assist in their latest battle with the Foxes. Fortunately, for the Blackhawks, Joe Bello (1-4-5 in 18 GP), Michael Cure (2-2-4 in 18 GP) and Jim Stitt (5-0-5 in 18 GP) will be back to take on the Foxes for another season. Each one scored a goal on the teams’ last meeting.
Fox Chapel: Wirginis (finished last season 13-5-18 in 16 GP) and Ethan Schollaert, who finished last season with a record of 6-10-16 in GP.
Bethel Park: Jacob Brown (6-13-19 in 18 GP), Dan Yost (3-9-12 in 19 GP) and Derek Lesnak (2-6-8 in 14 GP).
Peters Township vs. Pittsburgh Central Catholic
This season, the Peters Township Indians moved up a class from AA to AAA. They finished last season first in the AA division with a record of 17-2-1 and 35 points. On November 14th, Peters Township will take on the Pittsburgh Central Catholic Vikings at Iceoplex. Central finished their 2011-12 season 10-7-3 with 23 points.
The high-ranking Peters Township will have their work cut out for them as two of Pittsburgh Central’s three leading scorers are coming back for another season: Kevin Kline (12-9-21 in 20 GP) and James Pozycki (14-6-20 in 20 GP).
Peters Township had an astounding nine of the top 50 players in the division last season. Of these nine, the Indians have lost four: Alex Dagnall (17-15-32 in 17 GP), Mike Glicksman (8-21-29 in 19 GP), Ben Dachille (13-12-25 in 20 GP), and Evan Mitchell (6-16-22 in 17 GP).
Returning to take on Pittsburgh Central are: Brad Tylenda (1-18-19 in 18 GP), Trevor Rectenwald (7-20-27 in 20 GP), Cole Snyder (16-27-43 in 20 GP) and Taylor Cox (25-19-44 in 20 GP) the Indians’ leading scorer last season.
Players to watch:
Peters Township: Ben Zalewski (7-8-15 in 20 GP), Jacob Brown (5-10-15 in 19 GP) and David Rex (4-6-10 in 15 GP).
Pittsburgh Central Catholic: Eric Smith (11-5-16 in 17 GP), Jesse Yeckle (5-7-12) and Travis Cully (3-8-11 in 19 GP).