Quakers enter 2nd half undefeated
With the first half of the season complete, the Quaker Valley hockey team controls its own playoff fate.
The Quakers (10-0) ended the first portion of the season atop the PIHL Class A division. While the team looks to be in position to secure the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, the second half of the season promises to be more challenging for Quaker Valley.
Eleven games remain for the Quakers following Monday's game against Serra Catholic, and eight feature rematches against teams Quaker Valley already beat this season.
“If they weren't motivated to play us earlier considering we won (the state title) last year, they're going to be more motivated, because we beat them in the first half of the season …” senior Clayton Bouchard said. “It's definitely going to be even more of a challenge, but I'm looking forward to it considering we're still improving as a team.”
The second half of the season begins Thursday night against South Park at Airport Ice Arena. The Quakers beat the Eagles, 11-1, on Nov. 29, as freshman Connor Quinn tallied seven points.
Quaker Valley outscored teams by an 80-8 margin in its first 10 games of the season, led by a balanced attack that featured five players with at least 20 points. Goalies Jonathan Pijar and Parker Sherry combined for three shutouts, and the team allowed multiple goals in a game once.
Still, coach Kevin Quinn said his team needs to keep improving — especially because teams around the PIHL are constantly getting better.
“When you're playing three 17-minute periods, being consistent in all three areas (offense, defense and goaltending) is (important),” Quinn said. “We've been good, but I feel this particular team has a chance to be better. That's going to take hard work and consistency to make that happen.”
Before Monday night's game against Serra Catholic, which ended too late for this edition, the Quakers hadn't played since an 8-1 victory over Westmont Hilltop on Dec. 20.
Quinn said the team basically had one full practice since that game, on Jan. 3, but he said it was one of the Quakers' best of the season. Many of the Quakers' players compete on various travel hockey teams, so they stayed on the ice during the layoff.
“There's going to be some rust,” Bouchard said. “It's always like that, every year. But I don't think it's going to be too drastic to the point where we lose our focus on where we need to be. I think it's more rust just on missing some passes that we usually make, but that'll come pretty quickly.”
The layoff did have one tangible benefit for the Quakers, as it enabled some key players to get healthy. While senior defenseman Nathan Weil and junior forward Scott Weston are still missing from the lineup, juniors Ryan Lottes and Jimmy Perkins returned before Christmas and continue to get healthier.
With the Penguins Cup playoffs set to begin in March, defending champion Quaker Valley has its sights set on the top seed. Such a position would enable the Quakers to get a home game and the ability to make the last line changes on neutral-ice games.
Quinn said earning the top seed matters to him and the team, but he knows it will take some work to secure it.
“I think we've got some challenging situations coming up in the second half,” Quinn said. “It's always harder to beat teams the second time. We've got some other teams we haven't played yet, we've got some away games, we've got an outdoor game. There's definitely some challenges, and the key is facing those challenges, taking them head-on and then peaking at the right time come playoffs.”