Quaker Valley hockey looks ahead to next season after loss to Latrobe
Disappointment of a finished season quickly led to thoughts of a new one in the fall for Quaker Valley's hockey team.
The Quakers saw their campaign end in the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA semifinals in a 6-3 setback to Latrobe. Down 3-2 after two periods, Quaker Valley tried to make an aggressive comeback, but the Wildcats scored a pair of quick goals and held on for the win.
“We gave up some easy chances to them. That was the difference,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. “I didn't want to have to win a 7-6 game. We've just been giving up too many goals against good teams. I walked out of it really proud of our guys. We got a lot out of a season that maybe wasn't going to be one of our better ones. We're really happy.”
After being a constant championship contender in Class A, the Quakers, who won Penguins Cups in 2006, '08, '12, '13 and '14, made a strong push in their second year in Class AA. They lost in the quarterfinals last year.
“It's hard to do what we do; it really is. When you're up a classification, it's just hard. Everything has to go right,” Quinn said. “We're still a team that lost a lot of hockey games this year, and we were in the semifinals. When you lose a lot of games, there are obviously holes and we were exposed in some of those holes (against Latrobe).”
Nevertheless, the Quakers are impressed when they look back at their entire body of work from the St. Margaret Fall Face-Off in September through the following six months.
“We certainly can't be disappointed. We went through a lot of difficult stuff this year with injuries, people playing different sports and people leaving to go to different schools,” Quaker Valley junior Ryan Quinn said. “To get as far as we did, as a group, we're really proud of ourselves. We're looking to come back next year.”
Quaker Valley began the season with one returning starter — Alex Ritz — on defense and two freshmen — Philip Gagne and Colin Rice — sharing the goaltending chores. The Quakers endured a rocky start, but rebounded to boast one of the classification's better defenses in the regular seasons with 58 goals against, which ranked fourth.
“Even going into the semifinal game, we were ecstatic we got to that point. We were 0-5 to start the year. We lost three games at the St. Margaret's tournament and the first two to start the year. I was worried we weren't going to win a game, seriously,” Kevin Quinn said. “For me, with the youth we had to play and the injuries and all the other adversity, I couldn't be prouder.”
He credits the senior group of Rocco Grimaldi, Austin Wetzel, Owen Harkins, Noah Shultz and Robert Hinckley with their leadership.
“They all got better. Our freshmen got better. The sophomores who hadn't played before got better. Even our seniors who hadn't played much in the past stepped up,” he said. “The seniors are the group that, in a different era, they're competing for a Penguins Cup in Single-A. These last two years have been hard on them, but they pressed through. I couldn't be happier for them.”
The Quakers return a solid core with seniors-to-be Beau Tomczak, Rico Fernandez, Jake Giotto, Ritz and Quinn slated to return, along with Gagne and Rice in goal. Tomczak led the team in scoring with 33 points and 18 goals in the regular season. Ryan Quinn (21 points) was second and Fernandez (15) was fourth.
“We have a lot to look forward to next season. We have a very talented junior class. We had two freshmen goalies battling all year, and they had great attitudes,” Tomczak said. “It was a great season. We came together well. We got more chemistry as the season went on.”
That gives Quaker Valley lots of hope for next fall and helped ease the sting of the loss to Latrobe.
“It's hard to do what we do with the numbers. It's hard to play the freshmen and sophomores against all these big schools. You can't have a weakness,” Kevin Quinn said. “We persevered given our challenges. I am as happy this year as I have ever been, not winning the last game.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.