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Mars hockey endures emotional week of highs, lows

| Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 9:51 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Mars goalie Tyler Spreng celebrates after defeating Quaker Valley on Nov. 26, 2013 at Bladerunners in Warrendale.

Sometimes a game is just a game.

For the Mars hockey team, an early season victory over Quaker Valley two days before Thanksgiving was followed by the loss of a friend of the program.

Dan McCann, the father of Planets defenseman Mike McCann, died Nov. 28.

Rather than celebrating the team's hard-fought, 4-3 win against the Quakers, the focus of the players and coaches shifted quickly to the support of their teammate and friend.

“The whole team went to Mike's house on Thanksgiving,” Mars coach Steve Meyers said. “We need to pick him up and be there for him.”

The elder McCann was a staunch supporter of the program, serving on the board of the Mars Hockey Club as the head of coaches.

“Dan was a good friend of mine,” Meyers said. “We talked almost every day.”

On the ice, Mike McCann's play on the blue line has been one of Mars' key components en route to five wins in its first six games.

After dropping its season opener to Thomas Jefferson, Mars has ripped off five straight victories.

“We had a little bit of a letdown at the beginning,” Meyers said. “We started a little slow, but we're playing well now.”

While the triumph over Quaker Valley could serve as a building block for a successful season, Meyers doesn't want to place too much weight on one game in November.

“The QV game shows we can play with anybody,” Meyers said. “It's nice to get over the hump and beat them, but it's just another regular-season win.”

Mars got a pair of goals from forward Nick Makozy — the team's leading scorer — in the Quaker Valley game. Makozy entered play this week with 13 points (seven goals, six assists).

“He's been fantastic,” Meyers said. “He came in this year a little more focused and with a little more strength.”

Fellow forward Craig Mazzotta has chipped in with four goals and four assists. He's added a physical presence on the ice.

“He's a big hitter,” Meyers said.

Mars has been getting quality play from its netminders: freshman Tyler Spreng and senior Alex Stepke.

“There's a friendly battle going on between them,” Meyers said. “They really battle it out in practice.”

Spreng and Stepke couldn't be more different in their style of play, according to Meyers.

“Tyler plays more of a conventional butterfly style,” Meyers said. “Alex is more raw. His style is more free-flowing, and he's good with the puck.”

Mars will have to play its best night in and night out to compete not only with Section 2-A rival Quaker Valley but also with the rest of the talented teams in Class A.

“The league is as strong as it's been in years,” Meyers said. “There are a lot of teams that are very close.

“We're only as good as our next game.”

The Planets are scheduled to get back to action Tuesday against Serra Catholic, their first game since their emotional Thanksgiving week.

“We need to pull together now more than ever,” Meyers said. “It's going to be a challenge for all of us.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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