Frazier has a varsity hockey team for the first time this season, and a lot of the thanks for its existence goes to the players at the school who refused to let setbacks stop them.
Frazier's Nicholas Farrell was one of the leaders of the movement. He said at first, he and his classmate, Ed Kibe, got 40 students to sign a petition to play hockey, only to have most of those students renege on that promise. So Farrell and others went to various schools to see if they would agree to a "co-op" with Frazier to field a team, only to be turned down multiple times.
But after multiple months of putting in the effort, and finally getting enough schools to agree to play with Frazier, the Commodores were given the go-ahead to start their hockey program.
"It was crazy," Farrell said. "We were probably trying for the past year and kept getting declined.
"We found out about midway through the summer we'd have a team. Now we just had to schedule ice time and find a coach."
Matt Olbrys, who played amateur hockey in the area in the late 1990s and played at Duquesne University for one season in 2000-01, ended up being that coach.
Olbrys and Farrell's father had a mutual friend, and through her he was told about the opening.
Pretty soon, he was trying to get a group of kids from five different schools to try and jell together.
The Frazier varsity team is made up of players from Frazier, South Allegheny, Belle Vernon, Uniontown and McKeesport high schools. Most of the players had no prior PIHL varsity experience.
"It's been a little rough," Farrell said. "We hadn't played together at all and had to learn how to work as a team."
Farrell did have prior experience playing with one of his teammates and it has paid off.
Brian Gregg from South Allegheny played with Farrell on an amateur team when they were in grade school. Now 10 years later, they have been reunited and are the top two scorers for Frazier.
"It's been great playing with him again," Gregg said. "I've been trying to play with him again for a while."
Gregg scored the team's first goal of the season in the opener against defending Chiefs Cup champion Indiana.
The Commodores lost that game, but have won three contests this season. For a first-year program, it's been a success.
"It was a struggle to get everyone together, but they've worked really hard and we're playing well," Olbrys said. "Many people didn't expect us to have any success."
Farrell said the real success may not show for a few seasons.
"The work [getting the program started] was definitely worth it," Farrell said. "Even though a lot of us only have two years left in the program, a lot of the younger players who live in the Frazier school district will now have the opportunity to play for their school instead of having to play somewhere else."
Extra time pays dividends
Pine-Richland coach Mike Bagnato said he likes to give his top players a few extra shifts every game.
During the first part of the season, forward Dillon Kessy's extra shifts came on defense to help out a young group.
But as the season has progressed, and the defense has improved, Kessy's extra shifts have been coming up front.
So it's no coincidence that his offensive numbers have skyrocketed lately.
Kessy has 18 of his 21 goals in his past seven games, helping the Rams (10-3-1) go 5-1-1 during that span.
Kessy has been exceptionally hot lately, scoring five goals Monday against West Allegheny and three on Jan. 21 against Hampton.
"He's been playing awesome," Bagnato said. "He's really played well all year, but he's taken advantage of his extra opportunities at forward."
Kessy leads Pine-Richland and is third in Class AA with 44 points.
"Certain guys just find ways to score," Bagnato said. "He's got great hands and just finds a way to put the puck in the net."
Games of the week
• Quaker Valley at Freeport, Thursday, 6:15 p.m., Belmont Ice Arena -- The Quakers (15-0-0) beat Freeport (11-3-1 prior to Thursday), 4-1, in the first meeting Dec. 3. It was one of only two times this season a team came within three goals of Quaker Valley.
• Bethel Park at Peters Township, Tuesday, 9:20 p.m., Iceoplex -- Peters Township (11-4) won the first meeting, 8-5, on Jan. 4. It was the most goals scored against the Black Hawks (11-3 heading into Thursday) this season.hsother