Hockey: Colts don't miss loss of top scorer

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Last season, with Justin Sabilla leading all PIHL classifications with 54 goals, Chartiers Valley scored 6.23 goals per game.

This season, with Sabilla having graduated, the Colts are using a more balanced scoring approach instead of relying so heavily on one player.

The result is Chartiers Valley is currently averaging even more goals per game this season, 6.7, and the team is 8-3-1.

"Justin was a great scorer and it was really tough to lose him," Chartiers Valley junior forward Cullen McMahon said. "But we've come together as a team and everyone is doing their part. We're a lot deeper this season."

McMahon has stepped into the role of the league's top scorer. Coming into the week, he led all of Class AA with 27 goals, including a seven-goal effort against Franklin Regional last month.

"Cullen is one of the smoothest skaters I've seen," Colts first-year coach Sean Biancaniello said. "But this year, he has been dynamic by switching his game up and not being as predictable."

It helps McMahon that he has one of the better playmakers in the league on his line. Anthony Franks, who was second on Chartiers Valley in points last season with 31, has set up many of McMahon's goals.

"We read each other pretty well on the ice," Franks said. "He's good at getting open and I am good at finding him."

Entering the week, Franks led the Colts with 19 assists and his 39 points tied him with McMahon for first in Class AA.

"Anthony and I go way back to when we played freshman hockey together in seventh and eighth grade," McMahon said. "We both talked about how we needed to step up with Justin gone."

It hasn't been just a two-man show, however. Two seniors, Rich Monti and Ryan Ziss, have returned to the team this season after not playing for the Colts last season. The two have combined for eight goals and 26 points, while playing on a line that is used to shut down the opponent's top offensive line.

Some of the Colts' blue-liners have also been stellar two-way players. Tyler Stevenson leads all Colts defenders with 13 points this season and has been selected to play in the PIHL All-Star Game.

"Tyler is a big offensive threat," Biancaniello said. "He provided a lot of offense for us. And defensively, he brings physical play. He can be intimidating. A lot of times, teams won't attack to Tyler's side."

Another blue-liner, Sean Brkovich, was selected to his second all-star game this season. He has seven points, all assists, and is the team's captain.

Robert Ferrrari, who has played both defense and forward for the Colts, has scored 10 points and is an alternate for the all-star game.

With a strong defense and three-year starter Noah Stevenson in goal, it allows the Colts' offensive players freedom to play their game. Stevenson has a reliable backup in Alex Chabala, who also saw significant playing time last season. He has a 2-1 record with a 2.01 goals-against average and a 0.850 save percentage this season.

"We do have a lot of talent on defense and we know they are always doing a good job," McMahon said. "We still have to do our back-checking, but we don't have to worry about it too much with those guys back there."

With the top scoring team in Class AA and five all-stars -- Noah Stevenson, McMahon and Franks were also selected -- the Colts are one of the top contenders for the Penguins Cup title.

They have lost two years in a row in the Penguins Cup semifinals and are hoping to learn from their previous defeats.

"We had the team to go all the way last season," Franks said. "We just played off in that game [against Erie Cathedral Prep].

"We know what it's like to lose a game like that and we don't ever want to feel like that again."

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