By Matt Popchock
We’ve all got hockey on the mind right now, especially our partners at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They recently announced their “Stellar Six” high school hockey teams for each of their four coverage zones, celebrating some of the premier players in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League from this past season.
Mr. High School Sports has to give those folks a lot of credit, because 2010-11 was such a great year for the league, especially with all three Penguins Cup champions leaving the greater Philadelphia area with state titles, and picking the best of this group is an unenviable task.
When you’re picking just six to represent an entire geographic area, it means that some pretty exceptional players will be inevitably left out of the mix. So we went back and looked at some of the top forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders in all three “pure” classifications from the 2010-11 season who didn’t make any of the “Stellar Six” teams.
So without further ado, here are a few of the top PIHL players who didn’t make the cut:
Justin Selep, F, Upper St. Clair – Has the hands to complement his big, physical frame effectively, a quintessential power forward. Managed 35 points (16 G + 19 A) in 15 PIHL games, splitting time with his travel team, scored three times in the Penguins Cup Playoffs, including twice on the power play. Led Team Pittsburgh Black to a silver medal in the America’s Showcase tournament with a team-best six goals, 14 points in six rounds.
Dan Kucerovy, F, Bethel Park – Skilled forechecker with a good wrist shot, was a potentially lethal weapon on the Black Hawks’ power play. Tied for sixth in Class AAA in goals (23) and points (41) during the regular season, five power play tallies ranked fourth in the classification.
Daniel Moscone, F, State College – Deceptively skilled player who wasn’t shy about going to the front of the cage for offense. Led the Little Lions with 19 goals during the regular season, second on the team with 35 points, recorded three hat tricks.
Will Hoeft, D, Mount Lebanon – One of the most respected and physically imposing blue-liners in the PIHL. Scored three of his four goals on the power play, finished third on the Blue Devils during the regular season with 15 points.
Colin Cheng, D, Fox Chapel – Cleaned up his own zone and could pinch on offense, contributing to the Foxes’ attack with good puck movement. His 19 points were fifth-most at Fox Chapel during the regular campaign, making him one of the top five scoring defenders in Class AAA, four of five goals came on the power play.
Tyler Fannie, G, Fox Chapel – Seeing the Foxes fall short in the Penguins Cup Semifinals masks how well he played over the entire season (pun intended), and how fundamentally strong he was. Led all Class AAA starters with 18 regular season wins, 1.93 GAA, .906 save percentage; second in the classification with three shutouts; 44 saves on 49 shots in two playoff rounds.
Josh Singley, F, Latrobe – Excellent finisher who could ram home a one-timer at any moment, because he reads the play very well for someone his age. Showed his puck-moving skills by leading Class AA with 31 assists, sixth in the classification with 49 points during the regular season, will likely stay on top line in the future.
Julian Rizza, F, Pine-Richland – Explosive forward and natural goal scorer charged with the daunting task of putting a team going through growing pains on his back. Sixth in Class AA with 22 goals during the regular season, seventh in the classification with 48 points, rung up six PPG’s and showed what he could do in space with four short-handed tallies.
Randy Unger, F, Bishop Canevin – Hard-working freshman who had a nose for the net, and could blossom into one of the most exciting players in the league. Tied for second on the Crusaders with 16 regular season goals, third on the team with 34 points, led the team with five PPG’s; scored a second-chance OT goal to knock off three-time state champ Latrobe in Penguins Cup Semifinals.
Mike Amelio, D, Peters Township – Played responsible, hard-hitting, stay-at-home defense, and showed his dedication to the team by playing after multiple upper-body injuries. Team captain was selected to the PIHL Class AA All-Star team and put up 12 points (2 G + 10 A) in just 11 regular season outings.
Mike Zawilla, D, Chartiers Valley – Program enjoyed a meteoric rise this season largely because of his disciplined play on the back end, also showed good offensive awareness. Contributed three goals and 13 points in 20 regular season games from the blue line, helped Colts improved to fifth in Class AA in goals allowed (51.
Zack Daley, G, Bishop Canevin – Might not be as recognized as some of the other goaltending leaders in the PIHL, but never quit on a play, controlled rebounds, and saved his best efforts for the postseason. Third in Class AA in regular season wins (11), fifth among starters in GAA (2.69); 1.88 GAA, .912 save percentage in Penguins Cup Playoffs, 27 saves on 28 shots in Pennsylvania Cup Final.
Corey Schafer, F, Westmont Hilltop – Could take over a game with his combined skating and shooting acumen, and looked like a player anxious to take over every game in which he played. Led Class A in goals (36) and power play goals (7) during the regular campaign, and finished second in the scoring race with 67 points. Racked up 3.5 points/game, three goals and one assist in playoffs.
Troy Schall, F, Kittanning – Devastating speed and an even more devastating release made him the Crosby/Ovechkin of high school hockey in western Pennsylvania, at least in Class A. Sniped 30 goals, including eight on special teams, to lead the ‘Cats and finish fourth in the classification, ranked third overall with 62 points; recorded hat trick in Penguins Cup Quarterfinals vs. Central Valley.
Nick Blaney, F, Mars – Excellent forechecker who meshed well with his linemates, could score in transition, and launched himself into postseason folklore. Finished fourth on one of the most loaded varsity squads in the state with 17 goals and 36 points in the regular season, recorded a hat trick in Pennsylvania Cup Final to lift the Planets to back-to-back state titles.
Robert Sigurdsson, F/D, Mars – Backchecked with the same unwavering confidence he exuded during a scoring rush, and could uncork a deadly slap shot from anywhere. In just 12 regluar season appearances notched 22 goals and 36 points, fourth-most on the Planets and staggering totals for a D-man, and recorded three goals, two assists in Penguins Cup Playoff action; team allowed league-low 23 goals.
Tyler Crissman, D, Kittanning – Effectively shadowed some of the top players in Class A and could shoot the puck with uncanny accuracy for a player at his position. Put up 27 goals and 48 points during the regular season to finish seventh in the classification in scoring, and lead all defensemen in the classification in that category, Wildcats finished fourth in Class A in goals allowed (47).
Sam Wilson, G, Hampton – Great glove hand and equally great vision, could steal games for his team, and did so on more than one occasion. Led Class A starters in save percentage (.910), second in regular season wins (14), third in GAA (2.10); 44 saves on 49 shots in Penguins Cup Playoff upsets of Serra Catholic and Kittanning.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)