Chartiers Valley forwards some of the best in PIHL
Last season, Cullen McMahon, like the rest of his Chartiers Valley hockey teammates, was more likely to defer.
Now, McMahon and the Justin Sabilla-less Colts are doing it themselves.
Chartiers Valley lost Class AA's leading scorer in Sabilla to graduation after advancing to the PIHL Penguins Cup semifinals in March. While it's unrealistic to replace Sabilla's 53 goals in 21 games (41 percent of the goals for Class AA's highest-scoring team), the new Colts are taking a more balanced offensive approach.
“Last year when I played on (Sabilla's) line, I thought I didn't have to do as much,” McMahon said. “I thought, ‘Hey, just give him the puck and he could score a goal or something.' He's a great player, so I mostly felt like I should pass it to him and he would finish.
“Now, I feel like I can score a bunch more goals this season.”
So do the rest of the Colts.
Even without Sabilla, Chartiers Valley boasts a deep and talented arsenal of offensive talent. The team believes it will remain among the Class AA elite under new coach Sean Biancanello.
“We had to change the way we attack offensively,” said Biancanello, a former Colts assistant who replaced his cousin, Lou Biancanello, as head coach. “Replacing (53) goals just from one person is really hard to do. We have a different approach on offense — but we still have players like Anthony Franks and Cullen McMahon will who fill the net for us.
“Most of the stuff we designed last year was around Justin Sabilla and getting him the puck. This year, it's more of a team approach, a more systematic approach — work the puck down low and from the bottom up.”
Chartiers Valley opened its season Nov. 5 with a 6-2 win against Gateway and is scheduled to play rival Bishop Canevin Monday. Franks had a hat trick against the Gators, and McMahon and Robert Ferrari also scored.
Forwards Franks and McMahon figure to be two of PIHL Class AA's top junior forwards. McMahon skates on a line with seniors Kevin Kocak and Ryan Ziss. Kocak and Ferrari are alternate captains on the team. Ziss didn't play high school hockey last season but did play for the junior Pittsburgh Predators.
“We have some good talent, a lot of great goal scorers,” McMahon said. “We're just a more physical, harder-working team now.”
Even if Chartiers Valley doesn't average the 6.2 goals per game it scored last season, the team's defense figures to keep it in most contests.
Senior Noah Stevenson is a three-year starter at goalie — and he has a foursome on the blue line in team captain Sean Brkovich, Ferrari, Tyler Stevenson and Dominic Slovick that Biancanello is quite enthusiastic about.
“I wouldn't trade them for any four defensemen in the league,” Biancanello said. “We're very solid on defense. We have tons of experience at the amateur and high school level.”
It all adds up to enough that Chartiers Valley is thinking big.
“We talk as a team, and we set our goals high,” Biancanello said. “We want to defend our section title, push through the semis in the Penguins Cup playoffs and ultimately win the Penguins Cup championship.”