Pine-Richland forward honored
There are a lot of reasons for Pine-Richland captain Zach Richey to be happy about his senior season.
His 19 goals and 12 assists are good for a team-high 31 total points, averaging out to 3 points per game through 10 games.
The Rams have won four of the past five outings, and the 8-2 overall record — the best in Class AA — has the team sitting alone atop the division.
Add up all the individual as well as team accomplishments, and the PIHL could not ignore Richey when the Player of the Month honors were awarded.
“I am really blessed with everything,” Richey said. “I get a lot from my team, my family, and my coaches. Their support helps me a lot, and it is nice to get recognized for the school and for the team doing Presents for Patients.”
The season has been kind to Richey, and Rams coach Mike Bagnato is glad to have a captain with his qualities.
“I am very proud of him and the team,” Bagnato said. “He is our captain and does a great job leading us, and he gets the big goals for us.”
Richey, who leads the league in points and goals, is glad to be a help to the team. But he is quick to point out that buying into Bagnato's team-first philosophy has been a big reason for all the success.
“It has a lot to do without worrying about myself and looking at the team first,” Richey said. “If I am in the right place at the right time and my teammates hit me, I can capitalize on my opportunities. That is what allows me to stand out.”
Richey said that teamwork is what leads to success, and with players like Ben Meyer and Mike Carrozzi enabling the team to play four lines, the depth makes the Rams a force in the third period.
“This team is close, there are no cliques,” Richey said. “We all know each other, and we worked together over the summer.”
In something the team calls “Camp Bagnato,” the team worked through drills together during the offseason. But it is not just about working hard; it's about working together.
“The coaches gave up a lot of their free time to come and work with us, and we all go out for pizza after games,” Richey said. “That is what helps communication on the ice: We all know a lot about each other.”
Richey said he has been under Bagnato's coaching wing for about 10 years. From squirt hockey with the North Pittsburgh Wildcats to the varsity level, they have grown together.
“We have the ability to communicate ... we can talk on the level, and finding a resolve is easy,” Richey said.
With the lines of communication open, the wins have piled up. The Rams have six players with 10 or more points, and if that trend continues, Richey hopes that the Penguins Cup Finals are a realistic possibility.
“We still struggle at times,” he said. “But when the time comes, we should develop to the point where we can win in the playoffs.
“Improving is what keeps me going. That is one thing I love about hockey: You can't just go pick it up and play. It takes work, and now that work is paying off.”
Bagnato said that with a group as balanced as this one, egos can get in the way, but he said this team does not let that happen.
“Zach does not feel entitled. He is part of the machine,” Bagnato said. “Zach, Dillon (Kessey) and Ryan (Cole) play as a unit out there, not as individuals. They just let it happen ... they pick the right times to shoot or pass.”
In addition to his contributions, Richey said his assistant captains and goalie Brendon Bagnato have stepped up and helped point the way.
“I hope we are remembered for that (our leadership),” Richey said. “I will always remember making it to the PIHL semifinals last year, but I hope the best memory is yet to come.”
Richey said he will go to Robert Morris and study information science. He has not decided if he will play hockey.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.