By Matt Popchock

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Here’s what’s happened in the annual outdoor high school hockey event so far…

10:25 PM – The start of tonight’s PIHL event was delayed for roughly 45 minutes due to substandard conditions at South Park Ice Rink brought on by Friday’s unusually mild weather, so we’re just wrapping up the second period of the nightcap.

The weather didn’t alter the excitement level of the first game, a compelling Class A contest won by Quaker Valley over Westmont Hilltop, 4-2.

The Quakers opened the second half of play in the 2011-12 varsity campaign with their eighth straight win, tying PA Cup champion Mars for the longest active winning streak in the classification and ending the Hilltoppers’ eight game unbeaten streak in the process.

Both teams will give Friday’s proceeds to the UPMC Hillman Center for Brain Cancer Research. For the second year in a row, Westmont Hilltop’s program dedicated the game to the memory of Dave “Ziggy” Ziegler, a brain cancer victim who was a popular member of both the Johnstown and Pittsburgh hockey communities.

Meanwhile, Mount Lebanon leads Pittsburgh Central Catholic 3-0 at the ice cut. The Vikings (5-5-0) entered the weekend atop what has been a weak AAA-Sec. 3 thus far, while the Blue Devils (8-3-1) are trying to earn back the top spot in AAA-Sec. 2 after opening the second half of their season with a loss to co-leader North Allegheny.

Thomas Horn has led Lebo with a shorthanded goal just 2:30 into the first, and the primary assist on Jason Hartman’s goal with six minutes left. It was Horn’s tenth, the team’s fourth shorthanded tally of the year, and Hartman’s tenth as well.

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With 6:42 left in the second, Jimmy Phillips added his seventh of the year for insurance. Mount Lebanon entered the game with 59 goals, the third-most in Class AAA.

10:35 PM – They’re cutting the ice here at South Park, and it still looks like a God-awful mess. The paint from the blue lines is totally smeared, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say that logo at center ice read “HHHH” instead of “PIHL.”

Obviously meteorology is beyond the league’s control, but it’s worth nothing the balmy (relatively speaking) weather has done a number on this surface. Still, to the credit of all four teams who have played tonight, they seem to be adjusting pretty well.

11:05 PM – The more things change, the more they stay the same. Lebo crushes Central, 5-1. Thomas Horn added a wrister from the left wing before Anthony Parrucci extended his point streak to seven games with his fifth goal of the season. Nelson scored off a turnover for the final margin.

Both teams raised money for the Paul Sciullo Memorial Scholarship Fund. Scuillo, one of the fallen Pittsburgh Police officers from April 2009, was a former Central Catholic hockey captain.

Special thanks to Ed Sam, Rubino Productions, Mike Azadian, and the Pittsburgh Penguins for making this event possible.

(Plus, a special shout-out to old friend Joe Sager, a former Penguins Radio Network host who is now a talent high school sports journalist for the New Castle News, and was among the “dignitaries” present tonight.)

More coming later to…

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