By Matt Popchock
Although its only regular season loss came at the hands of the two-time Pennsylvania Cup champions, Quaker Valley (6-1-0) now rivals Mars (8-0-0) as the hottest team in Class A on the heels of a five-game winning streak.
James Perkins and Ryan Dickson each netted a pair of goals to power an 8-2 rout of Serra Catholic at the Rostraver Ice Garden last Thursday. Dickson hit the 20-point mark with two assists, keeping him among the top five scorers in the classification, but the real star, in a recurring theme for the Quakers, was the man between the pipes.
Doug Revak, one of three goaltenders to appear in a varsity game for Quaker Valley this season, made 19 quality saves to raise his record to 3-1 while lowering his GAA to 1.91, fourth-best among starters.
This is what gives QV the look of a team that can challenge Mars’ chokehold on Class A; the Quakers have similar balance and special teams prowess, but just as importantly, they get good goaltending, and they support their netminders well. Quaker Valley has allowed just ten goals, the fewest in Class A–one fewer than Hampton, and nine less than the Planets.
Goaltenders Zac Zinger and Zack Taylor were key to Penguins Cup victories for the program in 2006 and 2008. If Revak is for real, then the Quakers are the “other” team to beat in the classification.
Meanwhile, after a 4-1 start that included a thrilling OT win over 2011 Penguins Cup runner-up Hampton on Halloween night, Serra (4-3-1) has leveled off. During this tough stretch of their schedule, the Eagles have allowed 20 goals in a three-game span.
Actually, Quaker Valley has a chance to do Serra a huge favor. If the Quakers beat South Fayette (3-3-1) at Airport Ice Arena Thursday, the Eagles will remain two points ahead in Section 1.
They get a second crack at the Quakers out in Moon Township right after the holiday break, with the rematch set for Mon., Jan. 2.
Quaker Valley has developed quite a tradition in the 15 years of the program’s existence. Head coach and co-founder Kevin Quinn is the brother of former (two-time) Penguins winger Dan Quinn, and his assistant, Furman South, has strong QV ties as well.
His sons, Furman Jr. and Colin South, were two of the top skaters in the PIHL when the Quakers won gold at the Civic Arena, and currently they both play for Robert Morris. The brothers have combined for three goals and 12 points on the young season, and we wish Colin a speedy recovery from a most unfortunate concussion he incurred recently (I’m told it was reminiscent of the accidental collision between Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz).
The Colonials are in the midst of an eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) that has propelled them into a virtual tie with Air Force for the top spot in the Atlantic Hockey standings.
Penn-Trafford and West Allegheny are each coming off big wins at the new Penguins Pond at South Side Works (open through Sun., Jan. 8), and they each have big names to close out the first half of their season.
The Warriors (10-0-0) blew out Butler 9-1 last Monday behind two goals apiece from Conlan Sodrosky and Dean Demartino. Tonight the Section 4 leaders try to keep pace with Canon-McMillan for the overall lead in Class AAA when they travel to BladeRunners Warrendale to take on North Allegheny for a 7:50 puck drop.
Penn-Trafford boasted the top three scorers in the classification entering this week, including Sodrosky, a senior forward who leads Class AAA in assists (18) and points (28). The Tigers (6-2-1), on the other hand, are winning with their defense, which is usually the case under veteran coach Jim Black when the team is successful. N.A.’s 22 goals allowed are the third fewest in Class AAA, and that defense will be anxious to prove itself after a recent 7-5 win over State College that was its worst effort of the 2011-12 season.
North Allegheny has two games in hand on Section 2 leader Mount Lebanon, and the Tigers will rely on goaltender Matthew Goda, who ranks fourth among starters with a 2.11 GAA, to close that gap and give N.A. its fifth straight win.
West Allegheny (7-2-0) blanked Class AA Section 1 rival Moon 9-0 at Penguins Pond Monday night. The Indians, winners of five in a row, are running away with the section with 43 goals during that span, and 59 total, the second-most in the classification, an improvement in productivity that says they’re ready to cross the line separating pretender from contender.
But West A has its work cut out against Chartiers Valley (7-1-0) at Mount Lebanon Ice Arena Thursday night at 9:10. The Colts bounced back from that weird loss to Bishop Canevin we mentioned a little while ago with a 12-4 drubbing of North Hills at RMU Island Sports Center Monday, and they already own an 8-2 victory over West Allegheny from Nov. 10.
The key matchup is the one between sharpshooters Justin Sabilla and Jon Levitt. Sabilla scored five times in that earlier win over West A, and he led Class AA with 21 goals and 28 points (tied with Bishop Canevin’s Matt Walsh) entering the week, while Levitt ranks third with 16 goals and 26 points. He was held to just two assists the last time these teams met.
We thought at the beginning of the season that Class AAA Section 1 would be the best section in the entire league, but so far only Canon-McMillan and Peters Township have stayed above .500. The toughest section in the PIHL appears to be Class AA Section 2, which is where we find Chartiers Valley.
The Colts, Erie Cathedral Prep (8-2-0), and defending state champ Bishop Canevin (7-2-0) are within one-tenth of a percentage point of each other for first place. Believe it or not, Cathedral Prep leads Class AA in goals with 60 despite not having a player among the top five in points. Mitch Campbell leads the Ramblers with 14 points (6 G + 8 A), but what’s really remarkable is they’ve gotten goals from 15 different players. That kind of depth is not always easy to come by.
They own wins over Latrobe and Pine-Richland, two tough opponents, but we won’t know till after New Year’s if the Ramblers are for real. Their January schedule is brutal, featuring rematches with both those teams, not to mention a meeting with Section 4 leader Plum, sandwiched between a pair of games against Chartiers Valley. Without having done any specific side-by-side comparisons, I’d wager that’s one of the tougher second-half stretches in the PIHL.
Only a couple more outdoor games remain before the annual UPMC Centers for Rehab Services Outdoor Charity Series, and the most noteworthy of the remaining contests is a Class AAA non-section collision between Fox Chapel and Bethel Park Thursday night at 9:00.
Both skated on CONSOL Energy Center ice for the Penguins Cup Semifinals back in March, but both fell short in that round, and both have stumbled out of the tunnel in 2011-12…though, with a three-game winning streak, and just a two-point deficit to erase in a weak Section 3, the Foxes (3-7-0) are righting their wrongs. The Black Hawks (3-7-0), however, have work to do after dropping back-to-back games to remain in the Section 1 basement.
The biggest advantage for Bethel Park is its team defense; despite another year of “musical goalies,” the Hawks have yielded just 23 goals, which ranks fourth in Class AAA. Fox Chapel has seen a precipitous decline in offense with all its roster turnover, so to collect a win against that squad would give it a nice confidence boost going into the break.
Speaking of CONSOL Energy Center, that’s where the Penguins will battle the other Blackhawks–the kind from Chicago–on Tuesday, and it’s where the PIHL Players of the Month for November 2011 are slated to be honored.
Check back with the “Mr. High School Sports” blog later in the day as we reveal the four honorees for November.
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