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High School Teams Battle the Cold During Friday's Doubleheader of the Third Annual PIHL Outdoor Classic

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins forward Mike Rupp dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff.

When North Allegheny and Pine-Richland squared off on Monday night at North Park Ice Rink to kick off the Third Annual PIHL Outdoor Charity Series, the weather was almost too nice to play outdoor hockey.

That was not a problem on Friday night as the Outdoor Charity Series resumed with a doubleheader featuring Mars and Quaker Valley at 6:30 p.m., followed by Central Catholic and Shaler Area at 8:30 p.m. While there wasn’t a thermometer present, PIHL officials wouldn’t have needed one whose numerals went past 10 degrees if they wanted to have one.

Penguins forward Mike Rupp was on hand to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff in the first contest, which was certainly something which made an impression on the players.

“It’s great to have someone from the Penguins come out and support us like that because it shows us they care about our game as much as we do,” Mars senior Michael Mazzotta said.

Rupp couldn’t believe the players were actually playing in such weather, but said that it has to be the coolest thing for them.

He got no arguments from any players.

“It got to you in warmups, but then when you got playing it was just another part of the experience,” Quaker Valley’s Dewar Peterkin said. “It was a blast.”

“This is what hockey is all about,” Mazzotta “We all liked to play pond hockey when we were growing up.”

In the opening game, which benefitted Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Mars, which won the Class A Penguin Cup title last spring, looked like a heavy favorite to repeat after scoring four times in the opening frame en route to a 7-0 victory.

Starring for the Planets were Conrad Thibault and Blake Friday, who each scored twice.

The bigger story from that contest was both teams paying tribute to the Susan G. Komen foundation by donning pink. For Quaker Valley, that meant pink stripes around their socks and stick blades taped in pink.

The Mars Planets wore pink jerseys during Friday's action.
“It is something that the whole team is passionate about,” Peterkin said. “Getting to support it and represent it with the pink was just a lot of fun for all the guys.”

Mars took the pink theme one step further – they wore specially-made pink jerseys and socks for the game. Their head coach, Steve Meyers, said the idea was spearheaded by the players, and that he was proud of them for doing such.

“The players actually came up with this idea to wear the pink jerseys, so we were pretty proud about that,” Meyers said. “They went above and beyond the game itself. I think when people look at this game they are going to see a bunch of high school kids who care enough to wear pink in probably their most public game of the year.”

The players loved wearing the pink.

“I really think it was a great idea for us to wear pink to support breast cancer and all those unfortunate people out there who have that disease,” Mars sophomore Nick Blaney said.

Prior to the puck drop in the second game, the family of the late Officer Paul Sciullo, who played for Central Catholic and was killed in the line of duty last April, came to center ice and accepted a $1,000 check from the Shaler Area Hockey Association and an honorary jersey from Shaler complete with Officer Sciullo’s name and No. 20 on the back.

“That makes you feel like you are playing for more than just fun because you are playing for a good cause,” Shaler senior defenseman Tyler Schreiber said.

When play began in the late game, the unbeaten Titans found themselves in a dog fight with Central Catholic, which was feeling the upset when Anthony Parrucci, John Wyda and Kevin Kline scored first period goals to give the Vikings a 3-1 advantage after 15 minutes.

But, there’s a reason Shaler Area is undefeated, and they proved it in a hard-hitting second period. Schreiber walked out of the near corner and tucked a shot inside the post midway through the frame to get the Titans within one.

Minutes later, Billy Dobson took a pass from Conor Burke in the near circle and fired a beautiful backhander into the upper corner of the cage to tie the score, 3-3, heading into the third period.

Shaler Area won a high-scoring night cap, 7-3.
Shaler Area took the lead for good just seconds into the final stanza. Burke one-time a snap shot from six feet outside the crease to give the Titans a 4-3 lead. They would tack on three more scores before the final buzzer to complete a 7-3 victory which kept their record unblemished.

Following the contest both Shaler head coach Curt Hetz and Schreiber talked about how it took the Titans a while to get used to such cold weather since they were unable to get an outdoor practice in leading up to the game.

“I heard they were out here practicing on this cold ice,” Hetz said. “Maybe we should have done the same thing because I think we were trying to adjust to the coldness. I don’t think we realized in the third period how cold it was because we really came out to play.”

“It took a while to get used to it – seeing the puck with the lights and things like that,” Schreiber said. “In the second period we were able to get going.”

Just like both teams in the first game, the players in game two were ecstatic just for the opportunity to play outdoor hockey.

“I have played a little bit of pond hockey but nothing as fun as that,” Schreiber said.

Friday night was not just about battling the cold and wearing pink, it was also about four teams filled with young men getting the chance to live a dream they now see every Jan. 1 when the NHL plays their annual Winter Classic.

“It was really a surreal experience,” Peterkin said. “You go out there feeling like a Penguin. It’s nothing like playing indoors. It makes the game a whole lot more fun.”

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