Quaker Valley hockey thrives with new goalies
As a sixth-grader, Parker Sherry watched goalie Zack Taylor take Quaker Valley to the cusp of the Penguins Cup championship at Mellon Arena.
Though the Quakers ultimately fell short in that bid for a championship, the run gave Sherry something to which he can aspire.
“(I just thought) that'd be so cool to play where the Penguins play, to be on TV,” said Sherry, now a sophomore goalie for Quaker Valley. “I just wanted to get there.”
Just over halfway through the 2012-13 season, Sherry has a good chance of doing just that — and his play, along with the play of fellow goalie Jonathan Pijar, is a big reason why.
Sherry leads the 12-0 Quakers with six wins on the season, along with a 1.16 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Pijar, a senior, is 5-0 with a 0.80 GAA and .933 save percentage and was selected last week to play in the PIHL All-Star Game on Feb. 10 at Robert Morris' Island Sports Center.
“It's definitely a cool experience and something I've never done before,” Pijar said of the all-star selection. “I'm eager to play in it, and I'm not sure what to expect.”
Quaker Valley fans might not have known quite what to expect when Pijar and Sherry took over as the team's goalies this season following the graduation of Doug Revak. Revak led the Quakers to victories in the Class A Penguins Cup and state championship games last season.
While both Pijar and Sherry received playing time as Revak's backups last season, neither had been a full-time starter. But both have acquitted themselves well, coach Kevin Quinn said.
“They've done very well in the games that they've been tested,” Quinn said. “Some games we haven't, but the games we have they've done well. I thought the (St. Margaret's) preseason tournament was a good challenge for them, and we've got some good challenges coming up.”
While Pijar and Sherry are both receiving more playing time this season than previously, neither one has become the Quakers' full-time starter. That's because Quinn said he prefers to have his goaltenders compete for playing time on a week-to-week basis.
Sherry said he and Pijar are thriving because of the competition.
“It gives you a little momentum to want to play and go out there and give it your all 100 percent of the time,” he said. “Fighting for a spot, it's never easy when it's only between two people, but it's friendly. There's no hatred between us, and it's fun.”
The two goalies also benefit from going up against one of the PIHL's top offenses in practice. The Quakers lead Class A with 100 goals, averaging more than eight per game.
While that amount of offense gives goalies such as Sherry and Pijar some breathing room, it also means they need to work harder to stay focused in order to be ready when called upon. Pijar and Sherry say they try to stay loose by moving around and stay focused by concentrating on the game at the other end of the ice.
“No matter how the game is going, the goalie always kind of has to stand tall,” Pijar said. “Never really wavering, never really breaking down, always being somewhat of a rally point. … If we're doing really well in a game, you keep your end up and just further help your team keep the momentum going.”
With 10 games left in the regular season and the playoffs after that, Pijar and Sherry will look to join past goalies such as Revak and Zach Zinger in leading the Quakers to championships.
Both said they appreciate the opportunity to continue the tradition of championship-caliber Quaker Valley goaltenders and teams.
“It's a pretty cool feeling that that is our (team's) reputation,” Pijar said. “That's been our reputation for years. I've known a lot of the other goalies, and for me personally it feels great that I can keep that legacy going and do all the other guys (justice) who came before me,” Pijar said.
Note: Along with Pijar, four other Quaker Valley players were selected for the PIHL All-Star Game. Forwards Ryan Dickson and Adam Pilewicz and defensemen Alex Quinn and Stephen Wei will play in the game Feb. 10.
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.