Night hockey game supports cause
Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park had their moment in the hockey spotlight Thursday night in the first outdoor game in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League.
In the Charity Outdoor Classic, Mt. Lebanon defeated Bethel Park, 2-0, in front of a crowded South Park Ice Rink.
Jonathan Wilen beat Ben Garcia to his lower left on the power play to break a scoreless tie for the Blue Devils (17-1-1) with 2:50 remaining in the game. Ben Rascoe chipped in with an empty-net goal with 29 seconds left to secure the victory.
"I had my chances early on, so I definitely shouldn't have missed that last one," Wilen said. "When we play Bethel Park, that's enough to get us going. But tonight playing for diabetes, for our coach and teammate was pretty special."
Proceeds for the event benefited the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, a cause that is especially important to Mt. Lebanon coach Paul Taibi, Bethel Park coach Jim McVay and Mt. Lebanon player Chris Cummings.
All three suffer from the illness, and all three hoped last night's game would raise money and awareness the cause.
"I'm glad this all came together, because there was a time when it didn't look like it was going to happen," Taibi said. "Hockey was really secondary tonight. It was really about raising awareness of this disease and raising some money for research."
Despite the loss, McVay was satisfied with the experience the game provided his players. He was happy to see two communities put aside their rivalry.
"Hopefully we raised a good bit of money to put toward a good cause and raised some money so there can be more research," McVay said. "Dan Onorato (Allegheny County executive) really helped make this thing possible, so hopefully we can make this happen a few times every year."
With temperatures hovering around single digits, conditions were not as difficult as the players had expected.
Mt. Lebanon goalie Rob Behling said he was just happy to be a part of something unique.
"The ice was in pretty good shape. The only problem was seeing the puck at times because it was dark," Behling said. "I had some toe-warmers and some warmers in my gloves, but besides that, there's not much else you can do out there."
Although he did not announce an official count, PIHL commissioner Ed Sam was happy with the turnout.
"Everything was just fantastic," he said. "We're hoping to make this an even bigger event next year, with maybe two or three games just like this."
It was nearly two months after the Penguins' New Year's Day game against the Sabres in the Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo -- the first regular-season NHL game played outdoors in the United States.