North Xtra: Mars was able to reload on the fly

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Gone was leading scorer Austin Heakins to his amateur team.

Also gone were Nicholas Blaney, Joseph Bender and Robert Foley, who graduated.

So Mars Area entered the 2012-13 high school hockey season without its top four scorers from the previous year, as well as having its goaltender, Christian Knapp, out for a few weeks with an injury.

Predictably the Planets, who had reached five consecutive Penguins Cup title games, started just 2-2.

But the experienced players such as Craig Mazzotta, Max Master, Nicholas Makozy, Ian Houk-Graves and Ed Schwadron, started to step into their leadership roles.

Younger players, such as freshmen Beau Heakins, Austin's younger brother, and Michael McCann and sophomore Trevor Tisdale, gained their footing quickly and provided depth.

Meanwhile, Knapp got healthy and became one of the best goaltenders in the league.

In the end, Mars wound up seemingly where it always does, at Consol Energy Center with a chance to win the Penguins Cup title.

The Planets went 17-2-1 after the 2-2 start, and finished second in PIHL Class A to Quaker Valley, which went undefeated until the state title game this past Saturday.

"If you asked me before the season where we were going to finish, I wouldn't have said second," Meyers said.

The biggest reason for the team's success this season was Knapp, who went 12-1-1 with three shutouts. He finished second in PIHL Class A in both goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.932).

"Our goaltender, Christian Knapp, is the reason we were [in the final]," said McCann after the team's Penguins Cup semifinal win against Westmont Hilltop. "He's the best player on the team."

With Knapp in goal for the final two-thirds of the season and Houk-Graves leading the Planets' blue-line squad, Mars finished second in Class A in fewest goals allowed.

Offensively, the Planets had a balanced attack with 10 players finishing with at least 11 points during the regular season.

Mazzotta, the team's top returning scorer, led Mars with 41 points (22 goals, 19 assists) in the regular season. Makozy had 38, while Master and Schwadron added 32 and 24 points, respectively.

Knapp, Master and Schwadron, along with postseason leading scorer Nick Berteotti, will graduate, but Mazzotta and Makozy still have one year left with the Planets, presuming they return.

Houk-Graves, Tisdale and Beau Heakins, who combined for 46 points during the regular season, should also be counted on to play major roles next season.

The Planets will also return goaltender Alex Stepke, who went 5-2 as Knapp's backup this season.

"We had some young guys step into roles for us, so hopefully our future is bright," Meyers said.

Until they show otherwise, the Planets will be one of the favorites to get back to Consol again next season.

hsother


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