Quaker Valley hockey sets standard for success
Coach Kevin Quinn had one goal for the fledgling Quaker Valley hockey problem before its first varsity season in 1997 — he wanted a team with a solid foundation, one that could have continued success.
“There's been a lot of programs that have come and gone in the PIHL because they had someone pushing it until their kid leaves,” said Quinn, the Quakers' coach for all 16 seasons of their varsity competition. “Then it's done. Or they drop out and form (cooperative) teams. They take the easy way out.
“It takes a lot of commitment to continue to be successful.”
Over the years, Quaker Valley has done just that.
The Quakers missed out on the playoffs in their first season as members of the PIHL, but they haven't missed the postseason party since. Their run of 15 consecutive postseason appearances includes five Penguins Cup championship game appearances in the past eight years, with three Penguins Cup titles and two state championships.
Quaker Valley went for its fourth Penguins Cup championship Wednesday night against Mars, in a game that ended too late for this week's edition — visit triblive/sports.com for a recap.
But the program's success hasn't come easily.
“It's a lot of work, a lot of commitment from our players (and) commitment from our community,” Quinn said. “There's a lot of work at the younger levels and a lot of sacrifices made by our board members, coaches and players. It's a tremendous commitment.”
With a district-wide enrollment of about 2,000 students, Quinn said Quaker Valley faces a more difficult challenge of maintaining success than larger schools.
Quaker Valley combats some of its size disadvantages with a strong developmental program that teaches the game to children in elementary school. Many of the Quakers' current players grew up through the developmental program.
“The basics of teaching the game and learning the game is (crucial),” senior Clayton Bouchard said.
Quaker Valley's developmental program gets a boost from past alumni. More than a dozen Quaker Valley players have gone on to play major collegiate or junior hockey since the program's inception in 1997, and many of those players come back to help at the annual QV summer hockey camp.
“Kids look up to the teams above them,” Quinn said. “In order to have that, the older kids have to put in the time with the younger kids. They do that very well.”
Bouchard said many of the current juniors and seniors on Quaker Valley's roster remember watching the state championship team in 2006 and picturing themselves there one day.
Those dreams became reality last year, when the Quakers dethroned three-time defending champion Mars in the Penguins Cup championship game and went on to win a state championship, as well.
“You have a lot of pride in yourself, in your teammates and coaches,” Bouchard said. “Any time you can have success at that level — the highest level possible — there's no way to avoid pride, whether it's in yourself or your teammates, or whether it's the community having pride in you, which is a big part of it as well. When you succeed like that, there's no better feeling.”
Family tradition plays a part in the program's continued success, too. Over the years, a number of younger siblings carried on their older brother's success with the team. Several sets of siblings even played together, including Alex and Connor Quinn on this season's team.
“(Winning) together is really cool,” said sophomore Adam Pilewicz, whose brother Jake was a part of last season's championship team. “It was a lot of fun to play with my brother. I'd never really gotten to do that before.”
As much as he enjoys the on-ice success, Quinn said what he enjoys most is seeing the players succeed off the ice. He said one of his favorite letters he's received from parents over the years thanked him for helping the players in that regard.
“The experience of being part of a great community and a great hockey team and a great program — you've already won before you can step on the ice,” Quinn said. “That's kind of the motto we go by.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at DGulasy_Trib.