Senior-laden Plum hockey squad ready for AA battles
The Plum varsity ice hockey team lost only two seniors from last year's squad that qualified for the PIHL Class AA playoffs.
The Mustangs, who finished 11-10 in the regular season, bowed out in the quarterfinals, but not until after a spirited effort in a 7-3 loss to Chartiers Valley on the Colts' home ice at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.
Plum kicked off the playoffs with a 4-3 win against North Hills.
A lot of talent returns for the Mustangs, including a plethora of senior leadership, and second-year head coach Dave Stonebraker said he likes the way his team has come together only a couple of days before the start of the regular season.
“We will be counting on the seniors to be productive on the ice and leaders on the ice, the bench and in the locker room,” Stonebraker said. “There are leaders in all phases on the ice.”
The 10 seniors on this year's team are forwards Andrew Walters, Jordan Gable, Todd Ruggiero, James D'Andrea and Andrew Pagano; defensemen Nick Sciulli, Derek Zgibor, Dom Macioce and Zach Crawford; and goaltender Taylor Cestra.
“Like last year, the goal is to get all the talent to mesh enough to produce victories,” Stonebraker said.
Walters finished second in scoring in all of Class AA last year with 34 goals. He added 12 assists.
Gable led the team in assists (20), and he scored 10 goals.
Sciulli and Zgibor return as starters on defense. Crawford played on the Plum junior varsity team last year, while Macioce is new to the Mustangs hockey program.
Cestra returns between the pipes and is a third-year starter.
“Taylor is a seasoned veteran with a lot of experience,” coach Stonebraker said. “She's a top-notch goalie who has helped us win some big games. She will look to continue that trend this year.”
Backing up Cestra again this season is sophomore James Borriello.
“There are a number of good goalies in the Plum pipeline,” coach Stonebraker said.
Coach Stonebraker said sophomore forward Dave Stonebraker, junior forward Joe Randazzo, sophomore forward T.J. Kelsesky and junior defender Zach Kuhn also are expected to make an impact this season.
Randazzo was an impact player on offense last year, as he scored 13 goals (second to Walters) and was third on the team with nine assists. Kuhn and Stonebraker added five and four goals, respectively.
Kelsesky, who played in four regular-season varsity games last season, is a nephew of Plum native and Columbus Blue Jackets star R.J. Umberger.
Nick Mardirossian, who would have been a senior forward on this year's Plum team, was selected to play Junior B hockey this season with the New York Apple Core organization based on Long Island.
Apple Core plays in the Empire Junior B Hockey League.
Plum 2012 graduate Jake Kuhn is playing as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh.
“One of the goals of the program is the development of talent and skills so a player can go on to play Junior hockey or in college,” coach Stonebraker said.
Plum kicks off its season on Monday against Moon at the Pittsburgh Ice Arena in New Kensington. The opening faceoff is set for 8:20 p.m.
The Mustangs then will play Bishop Canevin on Nov. 1 at 7:10 p.m. at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center.
“The first week will be a daunting task for the players,” coach Stonebraker said. “Both Moon and Bishop Canevin are great challenges. The kids will have the task of coming out ready to play.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.