Mars, Quaker Valley players join forces for all-stars
There aren't two PIHL teams with more of a rivalry in recent years than Mars and Quaker Valley.
The section rivals have combined to win six of the past seven Class A Penguins Cup titles, and they have a history of high-intensity meetings in the regular season and playoffs.
Usually when they meet, there's something on the line. But what happens when some of the team's better players meet — in person — and can help each other win?
The Quakers and Planets each have the maximum five players on the Class A Southwest Conference all-star team that will face the Northeast Conference stars at 1 p.m. Sunday at RMU Island Sports Center. The Class A game is the second of four PIHL all-star games that day, beginning with the Open Class at 11 a.m.
In each classification, that can create awkward moments. Quaker Valley forward Ryan Dickson is one of three players to be named to the Class A Southwest team for the second consecutive season. He remembers what it was like teaming up with Mars players last year.
“When they walked into our locker room,” Dickson said of Planets players, “we were all in there just talking, and it was kind of weird to actually talk to them because we play Mars like they're the Baltimore Ravens and we're the Steelers, or like they're the Flyers or something like that.
“But then you get into a locker room, and they're just like any other teammates. You play like they're right there behind you.”
Just like all-star games at the professional level, there might not be quite the same level of intensity — but there will be some high-quality hockey.
Players selected are given an all-star jersey to wear and keep — the only visible markings of their school are the pants and socks.
“It's an enjoyable game,” PIHL commissioner Ed Sam said. “There's a lot less chippiness, I would say, just like any other all-star game. But the kids really enjoy it, and it gets serious after the first 10 minutes of play. ”
Players are selected after being nominated by their coaches. Last month, meetings were set up for each enrollment classification's conference coaches. Each is given the opportunity to address the room to make his case for his players.
A vote is held, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own players.
“A lot of teams might have one or two kids who are no-brainers, but when you start nominating those third, fourth and fifth players, it's important the coach being there and making his case,” North Hills coach Brandon Dudt-Mulzet said.
Dudt-Mulzet is on the Class AA Southwest Conference staff for the second consecutive season.
“Last year was my first experience with the all-star game,” he said. “My brother played in the all-star game; I was never in that category.
“Until last year, I was not really understanding the importance of it and what a nice opportunity it is for the kids.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.