Chartiers Valley hockey looking to end semifinal streak
The Chartiers Valley hockey team has been having a recurring nightmare the past three seasons.
The team has reached the Class AA Penguins Cup semifinals each of those campaigns only to fall just short of reaching the title game.
This season, the Colts won't let the past deter from what they want to achieve.
“Our goal is a state championship,” senior captain Tyler Stevenson said. “We have been in the same spot the last three years. It has been semifinals and out. We all know, especially us seniors, the feeling wasn't good.
“We don't want to feel that again.”
The Colts are spurred by the return of the dynamic duo of Anthony Franks and Cullen McMahon. The seniors led the PIHL in points last season — both with 69 — and are looking to pick up where they left off.
The challenge for second-year coach Sean Biancaniello will be how to use the alternate captains.
“It all depends on who we play,” Biancaniello said. “There will be times we put them on different shifts, and there will be times when we put the two-headed monster together and let them run.”
Chartiers Valley also will look to seniors Bob Thomas and Nigel Truong as well as sophomore Alex Stevenson for production.
“Dominic Slovick is a forward/defenseman who may have the most powerful shot in the league,” Biancaniello said. “When he hits the net, chances are it will go in.”
The defense — and team — will be led by Tyler Stevenson. The senior is a four-year member of the team, and his presence on the ice will be a boost.
“When you look at him, the first word that comes to mind is leadership,” Biancaniello said. “The kid was born with it. He has been through the ropes, he plays travel hockey at the highest level, he has a 4.5 GPA and he has the respect of other players. You cannot teach that.”
Junior Daniel Bigley and sophomore Derek Falcioni will look to bolster the Colts' defense.
The defense will rally behind first-year starting goaltender Alex Chabala. The senior played behind three-year starter Noah Stevenson last season. While Chabala doesn't have the experience Chartiers Valley is used to, his coach believes his talent will carry the team through the season.
“I don't lose a wink of sleep over our goalie,” Biancaniello said “I truly believe he could have been the starting goaltender for any program. That is a luxury we have had. He is coming into this season as a player hungry to get wins”
Even with several graduations, the Colts can turn to a junior varsity program that went undefeated in 2012-13 to feed the varsity squad's needs.
“It is hard to replace a line like Nick Demarino, Rich Monti and Ryan Ziss,” McMahon said. “They were running people over. They had grit. But we have some kids stepping up to fill positions.”
Chartiers Valley competed in the St. Margaret Fall Face-Off Tournament last week. The tournament features top teams from Class AAA, AA and A of the PIHL. The Colts went 2-1 in pool play with wins over Thomas Jefferson, 6-4, and Pine-Richland, 7-4. The loss came to Upper St. Clair, 9-5. Franks led the team with eight goals and five assists. McMahon and Falcioni finished with four points each, and Bigley and Alex and Tyler Stevenson each finished with three.
The Colts moved on to tournament play this week. Results were unavailable at press time.
While the past three seasons have ended on down notes, Chartiers Valley has used the experiences to grow closer.
The players know they can rely on each other as they battle Armstrong, Bishop Canevin and Latrobe for a chance to raise the Penguins Cup.
“This group of guys have been together since middle school,” Franks said. “We know each other very well. It is like a family in the locker room.
“We do love each other like brothers, and we want it to show on the ice.”
It is that unity that the Colts hope will drive the team to its first state title since 1986.
“We have one. We have the caliber team and have been discussing it in the locker room. We have had enough talking. It's now time to make it happen.”
The Colts kick off their season Oct. 28 when they travel to the Robert Morris Island Sports Center to take on Montour. The puck drops at 9:15 p.m.