South Fayette senior Ryan Schultz said playing with his brother, Nick, the past few years was one of the best experiences of his life.
"He's my favorite person to play with," Ryan said. "The connection we had was irreplaceable."
Nick Schultz, who led the South Fayette High School hockey team in points last season, graduated this past spring. While Ryan Schultz may not have a brotherly connection with any of his teammates this season, he and Joe Testa haven't had any problems with chemistry.
Playing on the same line most of the season, Schultz and Testa have combined to score 24 of South Fayette's 31 goals.
"They are pivotal for our lineup," South Fayette coach Chris Loughton said. "They are involved in a large number of our goals. Our offense revolves around them."
One of the reasons for their success together is due to the way their games complement each other.
"I'm more of puck hog, I guess," Schultz said. "I like to try to skate through people and sometimes I forget that I'm not the only player on the ice. Joe is always looking to pass."
The two also had plenty of time to build chemistry.
Schultz and Testa have played together on South Fayette's hockey team for the past three years; they are linemates on the Southpointe U18 AA amateur hockey team; and they are close friends outside of hockey.
"We spend a lot of time on the ice together," Testa said. "We're pretty close off the ice, too. We just have a great feel for where each other is [on the ice]. We have so much chemistry, it really helps."
That was apparent in the Lions' 13-1 win against Greensburg Central Catholic on Dec. 3. Schultz and Testa combined for nine of the team's first 10 goals of the game and the duo ended the night with a combined 15 points.
It was the first win of the season for struggling South Fayette (1-5-1), which won eight games last season.
"We're a pretty young team," Loughton said. "A lot of players are playing varsity for the first time. We only have two or three seniors on the team."
One of those seniors is Schultz, who said it is his job to try and keep the morale of the team positive.
"This is my year to step up as a leader," Schultz said. "I try to keep things in a positive light. Most of the guys on this team are looking to me."
But Schultz added that it helps him to have a player of Testa's caliber not only to play with, but to discuss the state of the team with as well.
"It definitely makes it easier on me," Schultz said. "He can give me a breather on the ice and it's nice to have someone to talk with who can understand what you're going through as the team struggles."
Going into this week's schedule, both Schultz and Testa were in the top 10 in points in Class A. But Testa said the only thing that matters is how the team is doing and South Fayette is currently in 10th place out of 12 teams in PIHL Class A.
"We don't pay attention to our individual stats," Testa said. "We have a young group of guys who we are trying to work with to get better for this year and next year.
"We've had a lot of good practices recently and had a good game against Greensburg Central. We have to become confident that we can do something game-in and game-out."