The Pittsburgh Penguins in connection with Highmark and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League honored Erik Mannetta of Serra Catholic, Ryan Watt of Pine Richland, Eric Bogden of Connellsville and Wayland Vaughan of Chartiers Valley as the December High School Players of the Month during the first period of the Penguins’ game against the Rangers Wednesday night.
The players were nominated by their coaches and chosen by a committee from the PIHL to receive the award. During the game, they were each honored on the Jumbotron, given a plaque honoring their accomplishments, and they each also received four complimentary game tickets.
“I found out a couple of Saturdays ago,” junior forward Mannetta said. “It was great. I was really excited and I’m just happy to be here.”
Mannetta averaged four points per game in December to qualify but gave the credit for his success to his Serra Catholic teammates.
“I have a lot of good players on my team who helped me out,” Mannetta said. “We have a really good offense.”
Vaughan, a senior forward, had a similar explanation for his recent scoring success. He notched eight goals and 13 points in his past five contests and led his team to a four-game winning streak.
“It is a great honor and achievement,” Vaughan said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates. They were a big help.”
Senior forward Bogden netted 14 goals and 24 points in the past month to merit player of the month honors.
“I just try to go all out every game.” Bogden said. “I go as hard as I can every game because I know my team counts on me a lot to get as many points as I can to try to get wins.”
Bogden started playing hockey at age 6 after watching Mighty Ducks II and then seeing a Penguins’ game on TV. He has played for 13 years and is currently the captain of the Falcons.
“I play a big part in the locker room and on the ice,” Bogden said. “I try to encourage our players to do better with every shift.”
Pine Richland junior forward Watt received the honor in part because he tallied six goals and 12 points in four games. He also took part in the PIHL Outdoor Charity game at the North Park Ice Rink Jan. 22.
“It was a lot of fun and it was good to play a highly competitive game for a good cause,” Watt said. “It ended in a 3-3 tie, but you can’t ask for much more than that.”
The Penguins have been honoring the PIHL players of the month for 16 seasons. It serves as a way to connect amateur hockey with the Pittsburgh community on a large scale as well as rewarding some much deserving, hard-working high school hockey players.
“When their friends and neighbors see (this story), it makes an impact,” Penguins director of amateur hockey Mark Shuttleworth said. “I think it enhances not just the hockey community, but the whole community.”