PIHL High School Hockey Notebook

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Welcome to another edition of “PIHL Notebook,” your weekly companion to “The PIHL Power Play” on the MSA Sports Network. This week, we have another special playoff edition in store, this time continuing the annual tradition with our complete Penguins Cup Semifinal preview capsules on all 12 teams vying for the right to compete on Consol Energy Center ice this Saturday.

PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS A Semifinals:

#1 Quaker Valley Quakers (18-1-1) vs. #4 Kittanning Wildcats (14-5-1) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Monday, March 19th at 6:00pm on msasports.net

QUAKER VALLEY QUAKERS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 2 (2008)
* Head Coach: Kevin Quinn
* Key Players: Ryan Dickson (20 G, 37 A), Kevin Kenny (17 G, 31 A), Jayson Lottes (15 G, 27 A), James Perkins (21 G, 16 A)… Goaltender: Doug Revak (9-1-1, 1.63 GAA, 0.894 Sv%, 2 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: The Quakers sported the #1 offense and defense in the Penguins Cup Classifications during the regular season, having scored 144 goals and only allowing 25. Their only loss was early in the year to rival Mars, who has had their number in previous seasons. The only other game they did not come away with victory was a 3-3 tie against Hampton, a game in which QV had a 3-1 lead late in the game. Their biggest win of the year was late in the season over Mars, who they crushed 7-0. They are 17-0-1 since the loss to Mars. QV has tremendous depth and good size on the blue line with defensemen John Pilewicz and Ryan Lottes.  
* Playoff Highlights: Earned first round bye. Defeated #9 Thomas Jefferson 6-3 in the Quarterfinals.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Send Waves: The Quakers are one of the deeper teams you will ever see in Class A and should use that scoring and defensive depth to wear down Kittanning.
2. D-Up Heinz: Heinz Koster is arguably the best player in the PIHL. The Quakers need to use their defensive size and strength to blanket Koster all game and force other Wildcats to step up.
3. Be Aggressive: Kittanning has been prone to taking bad penalties when down, going back to the semifinals last year at CONSOL. QV needs to be aggressive, get under the Wildcats’ skin and not fall into taking dumb penalties themselves.

KITTANNING WILDCATS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 1 (1991)
* Head Coach: Jamie King
* Key Players: Heinz Koster (47 G, 44 A), Christian Miller (39 G, 30 A), Hunter Grafton (24 G, 44 A)… Goaltender: Cam Langham (9-2-0, 2.00 GAA, 0.899 Sv%, 2 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: A team that was hit hard early with suspensions, the Wildcats finished strong and, in the minds of some, are looked at as the favorites in the Class A field. Heinz Koster may be the best player in the PIHL and plays on, possibly, the best line in the PIHL with Miller and Grafton. After suspensions were handed down from the PIHL after last year’s brawl at CONSOL Energy Center against Hampton, the Wildcats were without Langham in net for the first half of the season. Kittanning outscored opponents 82-14 in the second half of the season and have won 9-straight heading into the showdown with Quaker Valley
* Playoff Highlights: Earned first round bye. Defeated Serra Catholic 4-1 in Quarterfinals.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Secondary Scoring: Quaker Valley has the defense to slow down Kittanning’s top line a bit, so the Wildcats will need other guys and multiple lines to contribute.
2. Get Heinz Space: Koster is the key, obviously. Kittanning can’t force it, but they need to find ways to get him in space to score goals. He has the ability to create space for himself as well.
3.  Stay Out of the Box: With QV’s depth and skill, the Wildcats can’t fall into taking penalties, particularly their star players. They need all hands on deck at all times.

#2 Mars Fighting Planets (18-2-0) vs. #3 Hampton Talbots (13-4-2) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Monday, March 19th at 8:00pm on msasports.net

MARS FIGHTING PLANETS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 3 (2011)
* Head Coach: Steve Myers
* Key Players: Austin Heakins (26 G, 38 A); Nicholas Blaney (31 G, 24 A); Christian Knapp (8-2-0, 2.68 GAA, 0.884 SV %, 2 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: Any questions about whether this program had anything left in the tank were answered early and often. The Fighting Planets stormed out to a 9-0-0 start and strung together six more victories in a row after that. Only Westmont Hilltop and Quaker Valley put blemishes into the loss column, and only one of those two is still alive in the postseason. The Quakers and Kittanning may have scored more goals, but Mars is undoubtedly still content with the 138 it was able to score as a group. Between the pipes it was Knapp along with Alex Stepke proving their fans had nothing to worry about on defense.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Freeport 6-1 as Heakins (2 G, 2 A) and Blaney (1 G, 3 A) each put up four points.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Score first: Dictating the tempo will be a key element in this game, and Mars can still roll more scoring lines than Hampton. If the Planets can get the Talbots playing catch-up early, they can set the pace.
2. Keep it rolling: The Planets may not have “as much” depth as years past, but they still boasted six guys with at least 20 points. Short shifts will keep everyone involved and the energy level up.
3. Watch Wood: Zach Kosick and Luke Leya may have led Hampton in scoring, but Ian Wood led the team with 2.73 points per game and might actually be the best player. Letting him roam free would be a costly mistake for Mars.

HAMPTON TALBOTS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 0 (N/A)
* Head Coach: Dan Serakowski
* Key Players: Zach Kosick (18 G, 16 A); Luke Leya (17 G, 17 A); Cam Radna (8-4-2, 2.52 GAA, 0.896 SV %, 2 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: The Talbots followed up a silver medal in 2010-11 by cruising to first place in Section 4. Only Quaker Valley allowed fewer goals in Class A during the regular season, and Hampton collected a total of four shutouts. The boys put their best stretch together over a nine-game unbeaten streak from November 8 to January 24, and it was Mars putting a stop to that with a 6-2 triumph on January 31. Hampton was effective with the man advantage, totaling 17 power play goals out of the 91 scored as a team.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Westmont Hilltop 1-0 as Zach Kosick netted the winner and Cam Radna stopped all 31 shots he faced.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Think defense first: Although Hampton has some offensive depth Mars lit the lamp 1.5 times more often. A shootout will favor the defending champions, so the Talbots must play a tight checking game and wait for their chances.
2. Play disciplined: The Planets scored half of their goals on the power play in the previous meeting, so it stands to reason Hampton will want to cut down significantly on the 16 penalty minutes taken in that contest.
3. Goalie Cam: We said it on our show all season. As Cam Radna goes, so will the Talbots. He needs to play the game of his life on Monday night.
 

PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS AA Semifinals:

#1 West Allegheny Indians (19-3-0) vs. #6 Pine-Richland Rams (12-9-1) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Tuesday, March 20th at 9:00pm on msasports.net

WEST ALLEGHENY INDIANS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 0 (N/A)
* Head Coach: Tim Veach
* Key Players: Goaltender: Jason Kumpfmiller (17-2-0, 1.63 GAA, 0.920 Sv%, 5 SO)… Jonathan Levitt (25 G, 19 A), Patrick Coburn (16 G, 19 A), Jared DiSanti (14 G, 20 A), Matt Grebosky (14 G, 10 A).
* Regular Season Recap: The best team in AA in the regular season, the Indians were once winners of 15-straight, including a 4-1 win over Pine-Richland, before losing late in the year to Erie Prep. A team that has had strong goaltending in Kumpfiller in previous seasons, they’ve finally received the offensive production to match in Levitt, Coburn and DiSanti. Defense and goaltending is what makes this team tick though, as they sported the #1 defense in AA in the regular season. After disappointing playoff losses in previous seasons, this could be the best chance for the Indians to win their first Penguins Cup.
* Playoff Highlights: Earned first round bye.  Defeated Moon 5-2 in Quarterfinals.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Play Your Style: The Indians are the #1 AA team for a reason. They play a defensive brand of hockey and get strong play in net. There’s no need to change that.
2. Levitt-ate: Jonathan Levitt is the Indians’ best offensive weapon and had 3 goals against Moon in the Quarterfinals. He needs to play well… Simple as that.
3. Show why you’re #1: West A was given a reality check in a 5-0 loss to Erie Prep late in the year and then trailed Moon 2-0 in the Quarterfinals before rallying. They need to have the swagger that they’ve earned.

PINE-RICHLAND RAMS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 3 (2008)
* Head Coach: Mike Bagnato
* Key Players: Clint Loney (12 G, 31, A), Scott McAliney (21 G, 20 A), Dillon Kessy (16 G, 18 A)… Goaltender: Chase Takacs (8-6-0, 2.98 GAA, 0.875 Sv%)
* Regular Season Recap: A rollercoaster season for the Rams has gotten much better towards the end. After losing to Plum on February 27, they have rattled off four-straight wins and outscored opponents 33-8 in that stretch. They have hung in their with the top teams and even beat a couple, but had some disappointing losses along the way. They went with a straight rotation in net this season with Senior Chase Takacs and Junior Brendan Bagnato. Clint Loney (son of former Penguin Troy Loney) is a talented passer who has a BIG target in Scott McAliney, who is typically the tallest player on the ice and a good goal scorer. 
* Playoff Highlights: Earned first round bye.  Defeated Bishop Canevin 5-1 in Quarterfinals.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Direct Traffic: The Rams scored their Quarterfinal goals by throwing pucks at the net and getting bodies in front. If they can disrupt Kumpfmiller and knock him off his game, they can put some pucks in the net.
2. Stop the Rotation: The Rams have gone with a straight rotation this season in net, but Chase Takacs won the Quarterfinal game with all-around stellar play. To take a hot goaltender out of the net against the #1 team seems like a bad idea.
3. Remember Tradition: Pine-Richland hasn’t been to the finals in a few years. Once the best team in the PIHL for three-straight seasons, there should be an emphasis on restoring the program back to excellence with a win over West Allegheny.

#2 Chartiers Valley Colts (18-4-0) vs. #4 Erie Cathedral Prep Ramblers (16-5-1) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Tuesday, March 20th at 7:00pm on msasports.net

CHARTIERS VALLEY COLTS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 1 (1986)
* Head Coach: Lou Biancanello
* Key Players: Justin Sabilla (53 G, 19 A); Noah Stevenson (15-4-0, 3.06 GAA, 0.854 SV %, 1 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: After being blinded by the spotlight at Consol Energy Center last March, the Colts quickly showed they were not a mere flash in the pan by storming out to a 6-0-0 start. That was nothing compared to how CV would finish, though, winning the last nine regular season outings. Through it all, offense was the one constant as Chartiers Valley led Class AA with 131 goals scored en route to capturing the Section 2 title, including 24 power play tallies.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Plum 7-3 as Sabilla notched five points (2 G, 3 A) and Stevenson stopped 21 shots.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it: One-dimensional teams always run the risk of being shut down by a team capable of creating the right defensive match-ups, but why stop sending the offense through Sabilla now when it got you 18 regular season victories plus one in the playoffs?
2. Mix it up: Running the offense through Sabilla doesn’t mean you don’t want other guys lighting the lamp. Three other players scored against Plum with two of those managing a pair. More of that will be needed here.
3. Play smart: When the Colts beat the Ramblers during the regular season, they got four power play goals and took just 10 penalty minutes to 28. When Erie defeated CV, both teams collected over 40 PIM. Enough said, right?

ERIE CATHEDRAL PREP RAMBLERS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 0 (N/A)
* Head Coach: Jeff Tebaldi
* Key Players: Jimmy Bufalino (26 G, 16 A); Chris Coombs (26 G, 14 A); Trey Brown (12-3-0, 2.82 GAA, 0.875 SV %, 1 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: Did anyone see this team coming? Hard to say for sure, but we know who they are now. The Ramblers held first place a couple of times in the hotly contested Section 2, and scored just three fewer goals than Chartiers Valley. Erie put together two nice streaks, one lasting seven games from December 1 to January 9, and the second taking up the final six games of the regular campaign. Eleven different players reached the 10-point plateau, and the Ramblers scored 21 shorthanded goals.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Latrobe 6-2 as Brandon Gotkin had three points (2 G, 1 A) and Brown made 20 saves.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Take away Sabilla: He scored nearly 40 percent of his team’s goals, including 13 on special teams (6 PP, 7 SH). Make Chartiers Valley beat you with its second and third lines.
2. If you got it, flaunt it: A simple glance at the statistics shows Erie has more offensive depth than its opponent. Playing to that strength will be an essential ingredient for a successful evening.
3. Keep the emotions in check: Obviously this bunch likes to mix it up against the Colts, but they have got to take fewer penalties to increase their odds of winning the ’11-’12 rubber match.

PIHL PENGUINS CUP CLASS AAA Semifinals:

#1 Penn-Trafford Warriors (20-2-1) vs. #6 Bethel Park Black Hawks (16-7-1) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Wednesday, March 21st at 6:45pm on msasports.net

PENN-TRAFFORD WARRIORS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): X
* Head Coach: Brian Lehneke
* Key Players: Dan Maier (43 G, 32 A), Conlan Sodrosky (29G, 36 A), Joe Boyer (19 G, 36 A) Dan Petrovay (17 G, 21 A)… Goaltender: Mike Cheswick (16-2-0, 3.279 GAA, 0.888 Sv%, SO)
* Regular Season Recap: The #1 offensive team in AAA, the Warriors have been great all season. Some questioned their strength of schedule and quality wins until late in the season, when they defeated Semifinalists Peters Township and Canon-McMillan both in a one week span.  Maier, Sodrasky and Petrovay are terrific forwards for a team that failed to reach the playoffs a year ago. However, their best player is defenseman Joe Boyer, who may be the best blueliner in the PIHL. They had some questions in net and defensively though, as Mike Cheswick had a GAA at 3.279. But with the quality wins late in the year, they earned the top seed in AAA.
* Playoff Highlights: Earned first round bye. Defeated State College 5-4 in Quarterfinals
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Protect Lead: If P-T is able to get a lead, they have to be more careful with it. They were up on State College 3-0 after the first period of the Quarterfinals, but only managed a 5-4 win. 
2. Get Boyer Involved: Joe Boyer is a real talent. He needs to be used, particularly on the powerplay, in the offensive attack for the Warriors.
3. Break Blum: They need to throw a lot of shots the way of BP goalie Alex Blum, who has been terrific. If they can dominante the shot totals, they can win the game.

BETHEL PARK BLACK HAWKS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 6 (2005)
* Head Coach: Jim McVay
* Key Players: Derek Lesnak (16 G, 20 A), Zach Volzer (8 G, 15 A), Jake Worcester (16 G, 4 A)… Goaltender: Alex Blum (13-3-0, 1.69 GAA, 0.890 Sv%, 2SO)
* Regular Season Recap: Int typical Bethel Park fashion, the Blackhawks got off to a horrendous start to the season, going 3-7-1. However, also in typical BP fashion, they got hot in the second half and have won 13-straight games, tops in AAA. More impressively, they beat most of the top teams in AAA during that stretch. They don’t have a ton of fire power, as Lesnak is their biggest weapon with only 36 points, but they’re a defense-first bunch, and are very good in net with Blum between the pipes. They’ve easily been AAA’s best team in the second half, but will have to prove that they’re the #1 contender for, what could be, their 6th title with their biggest win of the season against Penn-Trafford. They lost 3-2 to the Warriors early in the season.
* Playoff Highlights: Defeated McDowell 7-3 in first round. Defeated North Allegheny 2-1 in 3OT in the Quarterfinals.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Dictate Tempo: BP is a defensive team, and need to slow down the Warriors from the opening puck drop.
2. Keep The Score Low: It’s no secret that Bethel likes low-scoring games. It’s no secret that Penn-Trafford doesn’t. If the score is low, it favors Bethel Park.
3. Blum Has To Stay Sharp: With a talent like Boyer on the blue line, Blum needs to realize that anyone on the ice can score for P-T. He has to stay sharp for 45 (or more) minutes.

#2 Canon-McMillan Big Macs (20-3-0) vs. #5 Peters Township Indians (15-5-3) at Island Sports Center on Neville Island on Wednesday, March 21st at 8:45pm on msasports.net

CANON-MCMILLAN BIG MACS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 1 (2010)
* Head Coach: Yuri Krivokhija
* Key Players: Anthony Tonkovich (20 G, 25 A); Ryan Christian (15-2-0, 2.71 GAA, 0.868 SV %)
* Regular Season Recap: Anybody think the Big Macs were slightly ticked off about losing a chance at back-to-back gold medals with the overtime loss to Upper St. Clair last March? For those who doubted it, witness the 14 consecutive victories collected to open the ’11-’12 season. Before the second half saw some other teams prove themselves, Canon-McMillan was frankly the lone favorite in Class AAA. The race is not so cut and dried at this point, but this squad still has more than enough horses to win the race. Consider 11 different players topped 10 points, and six of those reached 20. CM ranked second among its peers with 116 goals, including 25 on the power play.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Norwin 9-2 as Zach McKown registered five points (1 G, 4 A), Carmen Dalesandro notched a hat trick and Christian made 18 saves.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Find your motivation: For this team, that should be quite simple. Any player on the ice when the medals were handed out at Consol Energy Center a year ago need dig no deeper than that moment.
2. Keep shooting: In two regular season meetings, which were split, Canon-McMillan outshot Peters Township both times for a combined total of 64-44.
3. Play to your strength: The Big Macs scored 29 more goals than the Indians, and as mentioned above it was a team effort. Roll those lines and use that depth for a more certain road to victory.

PETERS TOWNSHIP INDIANS
* Number of Penguins Cups (Last time won): 4 (2005)
* Head Coach: Rick Tingle
* Key Players: Cole Snyder (15 G, 18 A); Trevor Recktenwald (19 G, 11 A); Brian Baker (11-4-2, 1.75 GAA, 0.938 SV %, 4 SO)
* Regular Season Recap: Despite not having won a Penguins Cup in six seasons, a runner-up performance in the 2011 tournament was enough for this program to attempt a move up to Class AAA. Peters proved its worth early, going unbeaten in its first seven contests. The Indians never won more than four in a row after that, but also allowed more than four goals only once in a loss to Penn-Trafford while picking up a total of five shutouts. Seven players attained double figures in points, including three with at least 30. Defensively, only Bethel Park allowed fewer goals.
* Playoff Highlights: First Round – BYE; Quarterfinals – Defeated Mount Lebanon 4-3 as Patrick Hannan had three points (2 G, 1 A) and Baker made 27 saves.
* 3 Keys to Victory:
1. Play like you belong: This bunch skated in the Class AA championship game a year ago, and to this point has more than proven it was ready to move up. Just don’t lose that now.
2. Take more shots: That 3-2 shot margin mentioned above is something Peters would do well to reverse if at all possible.
3. See the #3 key above: Just the Big Macs love to open up the scoring, the Indians boasted a slightly stingier defense. Don’t get into a run-and-gun type of game. Stay physical and wait for your chances.

That wraps up this edition of “PIHL Notebook,” but check back every Monday through March for the most current news from around the league. First, though, Adam Hoerner and Josh Rowntree host another episode of “The PIHL Power Play” on a special night and time Thursday night at 7:00. This week we recap the very games previewed above and prime you for the championship games this weekend. The exclusive home for the 2012 Penguins Cup Playoffs is the MSA Sports Network!

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