When Sewickley Academy defeated Western Reserve Academy (Ohio), 11-4, Dec. 5, it was the Panthers' first win on the ice in nearly 22 months.
The previous victory was a 5-2 win against South Park in a PIHL regular-season game Feb. 14, 2011.
The Panthers lost their final three games that season, then took last season off.
The game on Dec. 5 was the first game back for Sewickley, and it came in a newly formed league, the Independent School Hockey League.
In addition to Sewickley and Western Reserve, the league also includes Kiski Prep, Linsly School in Wheeling, W.Va., and Shady Side Academy.
"The athletic directors at the schools got together and decided they needed a league for schools that were all in the same boat," Sewickley coach Ryan Patrick said.
Sewickley's schedule consists of 13 games, although it's looking to add more. After the opening win, the Panthers lost their second league game to Linsly, 4-2. In between, Sewickley lost a non-league game to defending PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup champion West Allegheny.
Sewickley doesn't have a large squad, with just 12 players on the roster. A third of the players didn't start practicing until late November, because they were on Sewickley's state runner-up soccer team.
The goalkeeperin soccer, Hayden Moyer, is the goaltender in hockey.
"It's still the same mentality," Patrick said of playing goal in hockey as compared to soccer.
"You have to guess where the shot is going to go and keep it out. It helps with the mentality, but it's a lot different sport."
Bobby Hapanowicz and Eric Dietrich, another one of the players who came over from the soccer team, will be expected to make big contributions offensively.
Patrick said the most encouraging aspect so far is the number of players participating on Sewickley's middle school team. He is hopeful the program is going to grow.
"We hope to keep it going from here and get it to be a successful program," Patrick said.
"We want to attract more teams to the league and see where it goes. I can't see the Sewickley program having a problem for years to come."
Blackhawk junior steps up
For only the second time this season, Blackhawk star Daren Braudis was held without a goal in the Monday game against Harbor Creek (9-2-0).
The first time was in the season opener against Morgantown, W. Va., in Blackhawk's only loss this season.
But Monday, Kyle Schaefer provided enough offense for the entire team.
A junior forward, he scored all five of the team's goals in a 5-3 win for the Cougars (11-1-0) in a battle of the top two teams in Section 2 of the Open Division.
"He came to play," Blackhawk coach Matt Stuber said. "He has worked hard all year and was hitting the net Monday."
Four of Schaefer's goals came with a man advantage, which is the way the Cougars' power play is supposed to work.
"If our power play works right, he should be open every time," Stuber said.
Schaefer has 18 goals and 13 assists so far thisseason. He scored at least one goal in each of his first nine games, but had been held without a goal in his previous two contests before his outburst Monday.
How NHL's return helps
With a significant portion of the season already lost, the NHL owners and players came to an agreement in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Local high school hockey coaches believe the return of the Penguins will have a positive effect on all levels of hockey in the Pittsburgh area.
"It's a big deal," Stuber said. "It will more or less help with the awareness of the sport. With the NHL back, it will spark interest in the sport."
"The return of the game impacts high school programs in the area," Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. "You saw there was an influx of players when Mario [Lemieux] started playing, and then you see the same thing with Sidney Crosby playing. It's important."
Games to watch
• Freeport at Westmont Hilltop, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, War Memorial -- Quarterfinalists in the Class A Penguins Cup last season, the Yellowjackets (8-2-1 before Thursday's game against Deer Lakes) and Hilltoppers (8-3-1) are both ranked in the top four of Class A this season.
• Norwin at North Allegheny, 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Bladerunners Warrendale -- The game will pit the Knights (8-5), the second-highest scoring team in PIHL Class AAA entering the week, against the Tigers (10-2 before their game Tuesday against Butler), who have allowed the fewesnight t amount of the goals among Class A teams.