High School

“Mr. High School Sports” – Hockey Is Back, And So Is Shaler’s Thorpe

By Matt Popchock
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PIHL 13: Bethel Park Black Hawks

Bethel Park hockey will begin defense of its Class AAA Penguins Cup championship Oct. 29. (Image courtesy of John Rubino/Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League)

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(mpopchock@kdka.com)

The immediate future of pro hockey remains uncertain, but you certainly won’t see commissioner Ed Sam padlocking the doors of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League anytime soon.

We’ve still got pucks to drop, and the first batch will hit the ice at local rinks in forty days. The schedule for the 2012-13 season, the 14th in league history, has been unofficially released, and a fascinating slate of games appears to be set for opening night, Mon., Oct. 29.

Perhaps the biggest one will be the grudge match at 8:00 that night between Bethel Park and visiting Penn-Trafford at BladeRunners Bethel Park. Last season, the Warriors entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed in PIHL Class AAA for the first time in program history, but the Black Hawks upended them in the Penguins Cup Semifinals, their 14th consecutive win at the time, en route to a Penguins Cup title.

Jake Worcester is back to lead the Hawks after scoring 14 goals as a sophomore. Penn-Trafford, featuring junior forward Jake Miller (3 G + 9 A in ’11-’12), has a long road back to greatness after graduating nine of its top ten scorers.

Meanwhile, the brackets have been announced for the annual St. Margaret’s Fall Face-Off, a preseason exhibition tournament that serves as a tune-up, and perhaps, on some level, a litmus test, for the top teams in the league.

Bracket A, speaking of Bethel Park, will consist of the Black Hawks, Kittanning, North Allegheny and Pine-Richland.

Bracket B features three recent Penguins Cup champions–Canon-McMillan, Latrobe, and defending Double-A titlist West Allegheny–along with perennial challenger Mount Lebanon.

Bracket C consists of Bishop Canevin, Canon-McMillan 2 (the Big Macs will also field an Open Class team this year due to high participation numbers), Pittsburgh Central Catholic, and defending Class A Pennsylvania Cup champion Quaker Valley.

Bracket D will pit two-time Penguins Cup semifinalist Chartiers Valley against Serra Catholic, Trinity, and 2011 state champ Upper St. Clair.

Bracket E aligns the Planets of Mars, Class A Penguins Cup winners 2009-11, against Hampton, Seneca Valley, and Shaler.

The St. Margaret’s Fall Face-Off runs Oct. 8-16 at BladeRunners Harmarville. Check the blog at that time for more coverage.

In other high school sports news, Shaler will celebrate the return of its top basketball player, and one of the premier recruits in western Pennsylvania, from the 2011-12 campaign.

Senior guard Geno Thorpe initially transferred from the school to the prestigious West Oaks Academy in Orlando to be closer to his father, who lives in Cape Canaveral. However, in case you missed it, Thorpe, a Penn State hoops commit, decided to leave the school and finish his high school career in the ‘Burgh after all.

“It was a family situation for Geno, missing his mom,” West Oaks head coach Iren Rainey told the Orlando Sentinel. “It was an adjustment. He’s a good kid. I wish Geno the best.”

Thorpe tweeted this morning he was to meet during lunch with Shaler AD/head boys’ basketball coach Paul Holzshu, presumably to discuss re-enrollment and the upcoming season.

Obviously one wants what’s best for the student, but Holzshu is probably breathing a heavy sigh of relief. Thorpe averaged 21.5 points per game as a junior, a year in which Shaler reached the WPIAL semifinals and knocked off two-time district champ Gateway in the PIAA playoffs.

The Titans, save for Thorpe, have essentially graduated their whole 2011-12 starting lineup, and eight seniors in all, so they need Thorpe’s leadership to solidify their chances of returning to the playoffs, much less going on another lengthy run.

(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)

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