Bethel Park hockey team looking to mature, reach goals
Jim McVay has a 2-year-old daughter. He also coaches the Bethel Park hockey team. To him, there's not much difference between the two.
“Each season is sort of like watching a kid grow up,” McVay said. “They're going to misbehave. They're going to have their problems. But your goal is to make them into a good adult.”
Two years ago, Bethel Park matured from newborn to toddler to teenager to adult and picked up a PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup championship along the way.
The 2013-14 Black Hawks aren't there yet, McVay insisted, but Bethel Park improved to 9-2 with Friday's win over Canon-McMillan and again has the pieces to become a dominant playoff force.
Eight seniors lead the team. Among them are a shut-down defenseman, perhaps the PIHL's most dangerous scoring threat and a goalie who has been almost impossible to score on.
“I think we're coming up on our teenage phase right now,” senior captain Derek Lesnak said. “We're starting to get the hang of things. Hopefully, we'll be grown up by the end of the season.”
The 2011-12 team went 17-8-1 and had one-goal wins over North Allegheny, Penn-Trafford and Peters Township in the Penguins Cup playoffs.
Lesnak was the Black Hawks' leading scorer then, but he has since shifted to defense, a move made because of a wealth of offensive talent and a desire to get better in the back.
“That's a huge reason why we're successful, because he's as solid of a defenseman as there is around here,” McVay said of Lesnak, who still ranks second on the team with 21 points. “I don't think it's his favorite thing. But he's our captain, he's our leader and our team goes as he goes.”
Which could also be said for Chris Siak, who ranks second in Class AAA with 30 points and leads the classification with 21 goals.
Siak said he idolizes Evgeni Malkin and prefers a power game that fits his 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame.
“He's sort of a man-child,” McVay said of Siak, who was third in Class AAA last season with 36 goals. “He has a man's body. He could beat up some tough college kids. He's a strong kid.”
Goalie Zach Davis leads Class AAA in wins with eight and ranks second among regulars in goals-against at 2.04.
Defenseman Nick Konyk has been outstanding, McVay said. The rest of the senior class includes Jake Worcester, Brian Weisner, Jake Salak, Jeff Wagner and Conor Namuth.
Spencer Bawcom has scored 10 points.
“We're a pretty close-knit group of guys,” Siak said of the senior class. “We're all really good friends on and off the ice. That would mean a lot to us if we could take home the gold.”
To do that, McVay wants Bethel Park to improve its penalty kill, power play and team defense. The Black Hawks have scored 50 goals and given up 23, though only four of the 23 have come during the past three games.
“Defense first,” Lesnak said. “The goals will come.”
They did for the team two years ago, which is why this Bethel Park team is looking up to that one and how well it matured.
“Hard work always stays with Bethel Park hockey,” Lesnak said. “I think this team may be a little bit more talented than the other team. But if this team develops the mindset the other team had, we'll be tough to beat by the end of the year.”