PIHL Class A 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 season, the Mars Planets crushed the Hampton Talbots winning Mars’ third Class A title with a final score of 5-0. The two will meet again on January 31st at Mars’ home - Bladerunners in Warrendale.
Mars was ranked second in the class ending last season with a record 16-1-0 with 32 points. The Planets had several leading goal-scorers, four of which are returning: Nick Blaney (15-15-30 in 11 GP), Robert Foley (15-11-26 in 15 GP), Austin Heakens (8-18-26 in 12 GP) and Joe Bender (13-9-22 in 12 GP).
The Planets have lost three great players that helped them win a championship last year: Elliot Tisdale (20-17-37 in 11 GP), Kevin Leslie (6-16-22 in 16 GP) and Blake Friday (8-12-20 in 8 GP).
Mars hopes that Heakens will be able to bring his game to the table again, as he did in the finals scoring two goals and adding two assists against Hampton. Blaney also added a goal and an assist, as did Bender.
As for Hampton, the Talbots will have to step up their game this January as they have lost two of their top four scoring leaders. Luke Leya (17-12-29 in 13 GP) and Zachary Homitz (10-8-18 in 13 GP) are gone, while Joe Vita (14-14-28 in 18 GP) and Ian Wood (9-16-25 in 17 GP) remain.
Ranked 6th in the class, Hampton walked out of the 2010-11 season with a record 13-6-0 and 26 points. There were no goals for the Talbots the last time they met with Mars in the finals, but Luke Pankowski (7-7-14 in 19 GP) and Wood managed to score on the Planets last January. Pankowski had a goal and two assists, while Wood also added a goal and an assist. Pankowski no longer plays for the Talbots, so Wood and his teammates will have to take advantage of the time off to settle the score with Mars.
Players to watch:
Mars: Russell Miller (5-10-15 in 17 GP), Maxwell Master (6-4-10 in 13 GP) and Greg Makozy (1-9-10 in 17 GP)
Hampton: Brian Swain (7-6-13 in 15 GP), Zach Kosick (2-8-10 in 18 GP) and Eric Leya (2-6-8- in 18 GP)
Serra Catholic vs. Kittanning
January 19th will be a day to remember as two of the highest-ranking and most storied teams in the Class A division, the Serra Catholic Eagles and Kittanning Wildcats, meet at the Ice Garden in Rostraver. At their last meeting, Serra Catholic lost on their home ice 5-2. They are hoping the months between the two meetings have given them the time and effort to prepare for a victory.
Serra Catholic led the Class A division with a record 16-3-1 and 33 points. Kittanning was just behind them with a record 16-1-0 and 32 points. Last season, Serra Catholic had eight of the top 50 scoring leaders in the division. Several are back: Tyler Speis (25-18-43 in 17 GP), Garner Kraemer (13-24-37 in 20 GP), R.J. Kendi (11-18-29 in 20 GP), Zachary Schindler (11-13-24 in 20 GP), Travis Marzina (10-9-19 in 19 GP) and Nicholas Vacsulka (7-10-17 in 19 GP).
At the last pairing of these two teams, only Kraemer and Jarrett Ruchka scored for the Eagles. Rucka has moved on from Serra Catholic.
Kittanning had six of the top 50 scoring leaders last season: Heinz Koster (24-29-53 in 17 GP), Jordan Ford (25-26-51 in 16 GP), Troy Schall (22-24-46 in 15 GP), Tyler Crissman (22-15-37 in 17 GP), Jake Enders (11-21-32 in 15 GP) and Hunter Grafton (6-20-26 in 17 GP).
Of these players, only Koster and Grafton remain for the Wildcats. Schall scored two goals for Kittaning, while Crissman and Ford each had one. Crissman and Ford each added an assist. Koster will have to see if he is able to score again as he did at their last meeting.
Ryan Toy (1-9-10 in 16 GP), Luke Mitchell (1-4-5 in 17 GP) and Ethan Eisenbrandt (2-5-7 in 12 GP) have a good idea of what to expect this January, as each of these players had an assist last year against Serra Catholic.
Players to watch:
Serra Catholic: Schindler, Marzina and Vacsulka
Kittanning: Eli Johns (5-6-11 in 17 GP), Toy and Ethan Eisenbrandt (2-5-7 in 12 GP)