South Fayette hockey looking for young players to step up
If the South Fayette hockey team wants to make its third straight postseason appearance, it will need to see some cubs turn into Lions.
“We lost some key players,” South Fayette coach Chris Loughton said. “We're pretty young this season. We have a few very good players and after that a lot of people who are young.
“It will be a challenge but we are up to it.”
Two of the biggest losses the Lions will have to overcome are Nick Schultz and Blake Barber.
The duo was among the top point-producers for South Fayette, as Shultz finished with 40 goals and Barber 28.
The Lions will be able to count on senior Ryan Schultz and junior Joe Testa for offensive production. Both finished with 30 points last season – Schultz finished with 17 goals while Testa had eight – and will be the driving force behind the Lions attack this season.
“They have already been a big part of what we are going to do,” Loughton said. “They accounted for most, if not all, of our points in our scrimmages.
“We will be counting on them a lot.”
Playing on the first line with the high-scoring pair will be senior Levi Cornell.
“He is more of a power forward,” Loughton said. “But he should be able to chip in some goals.”
Senior Chad Errey – son of former Pittsburgh Penguin Bob Errey – is a player Loughton mentioned that will be looked at to help spread the scoring around.
The defense will get a boost with the return of goalie Nicholas Blocher.
The senior has seen time in front of the net for South Fayette the past two seasons and had 327 saves last year.
“We will be counting on him a lot,” Loughton said. “He was left alone a number of times last season. But (Blocher) has risen to the situation.”
Blocher will be helped by senior defenseman Ben Anton and junior Wesley Sprecher. The duo saw a large amount of playing time last season.
Junior Max Hanich also returns to give the defense solid depth.
The team added transfer junior Dimitri Marrese and moved junior Anthony Vallelunga from forward into a defender role.
“We will be a very defensively oriented team this season,” Loughton said. “We don't have the depth of other teams. We have to capitalize on other team's mistakes.
“If we do we will be OK. If not, it might be a long year.”
The concentration on defense should help the Lions. The squad gave up five or more goals in 11 games last season, going 2-9 in the high-scoring affairs.
An improved defense will also help the team improve on its 8-10-1 mark from a season ago and contend in a tough Class A.
“Quaker Valley and Mars are at the top of the class,” Loughton said. “There is no question about it.
“They have been in the past and the will continue to be this season.”
Loughton added that Westmont Hilltop, Kittaning and Section 1-A foe Serra Catholic will also be near the top of the Class A standings.
Section 1-A will offer plenty of challenges outside of the Eagles, as South Fayette will need to contend with Thomas Jefferson and South Park to reach its No.1 priority – the PIHL postseason.
“The top goal is to make the playoffs,” Loughton said. “With any luck, we will.”
The Lions return to the ice Monday when they take on Deer Lakes at Ice Connection in Valencia. Puck drops at 9:10 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-388-5813.