By Matt Popchock

On Sunday the National Hockey League’s finest faced off in Raleigh, exactly one week after Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League’s finest faced off in Rostraver.  The newly-restored Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon was home to the 2011 PIHL All-Star Event, four games between the Northeast Conference All-Stars (representing teams in Sections 1 and 2 of each classification) and the Southwest Conference All-Stars (representing teams in Sections 3 and 4) featuring players voted on by their coaches.

This year’s result was a split that started with the Open Class Northeast team defeating the Southwest 7-2 behind a goal and two assists from both Hollidaysburg sophomore Sam Lafferty and Kiski Area junior Brandon Donnelly, and 10 saves from Ford City’s Tyler Skerkavich.  The Northeast Conference would later win the Class AA game also, with Latrobe senior Zach LaDuke netting two goals and three assists in an 8-4 victory.

The Southwest Conference All-Stars hung on for a 5-4 victory in the Class A contest after Deer Lakes senior Joseph Smith scored his second goal with his team shorthanded in the closing moments of the second period.  In the nightcap, the Southwest squad jumped out to a 5-0 lead and prevailed 6-3 in the Class AAA contest with a goal and assist each from Canon-McMillan duo Brett Oldaker and Zach McKown.

Here’s what some of the kids had to say about their All-Star experience:

“I played in the All-Star Game last year, and it was even more fun this year…and the outdoor game was something I’ll never forget.  I’ll remember every second of it the rest of my life.” -Andy Herbert of Westmont Hilltop on playing in two marquee events on the same weekend

“It feels good…it feels good to see the new guys out here, and it’s fun.  It’s nice to be recognized.” -Elliot Tisdale of Mars on playing with first-time All-Star teammates

“Obviously it’s a large bench, so you don’t get a lot of playing time.  You want to skate as hard as you can when you do get out there, and try to make something happen.” -Matt Walsh of Bishop Canevin on his approach to the event

“It’s definitely an honor to be skating with wingers who you know are as good as yourself…and being the only one from my school also made it an honor.” -Nigel Crighton of Moon on playing with the Class AA Southwest Conference All-Stars

“It felt really good…Coach told me to go upstairs…the next shift, I went upstairs, and sure enough, I got the goal.” -Brett Oldaker of Canon-McMillan on his breakaway goal, which gave the Class AAA Southwest Conference All-Stars a 1-0 lead 38 seconds into the game

“Definitely.  For one thing, it’s a lot easier to see in this rink.” -Brandon Savka of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, who made 22 saves in the Class AAA game, on if playing in an outdoor game and an All-Star game as a JV call-up will make him better in the long run

For continuing coverage of the PIHL and Penguins Cup Playoffs, be sure to check back with Mr. High School Sports throughout the 2010-11 season!

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