West/South Xtra: Canevin hockey team gets a lift from Unger

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Just a week prior to the start of the 2013-14 PIHL regular season, Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Zielmanski didn't know whether forward Randy Unger was playing for his team.

Unger was deciding between playing for the Crusaders and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite amateur team and ultimately chose the Crusaders, to the delight of Bishop Canevin fans and likely to the collective groan of the rest of the league.

"We had a conversation and he wasn't sure what he was going to do," Zielmanski said. "But he opted to stay with us and we've really benefitted."

Unger has 23 goals and leads Class AA with 43 assists and 67 points for the first-place Crusaders (18-2). Considering he has scored a point in every game this season and at least two in 19 of the team's 20 games, he has a chance in Bishop Canevin's final two games to become only the sixth player in the past decade in Class AA to score at least 70 points in a regular season.

He also has a shot to break the record for most points (73) in the classification over the past 10 years, held by Chartiers Valley's Justin Sabilla (2011-12) and Pine-Richland's Dylan Trombetta (2006-07).

Unger was a productive player his first two seasons at Bishop Canevin, scoring 31 goals and 71 points combined in his freshman and sophomore seasons and earning an all-star selection in 2012.

But last season, Unger only played in one-third of the team's games -- scoring nine points -- because of traveling with the Pens Elite. The constant travel pushed him toward playing for the Crusaders.

"I was sick of going away all the time, so I decided to play for Canevin," Unger said. "I did enjoy playing with the Pens Elite, but I'm happy with the choice I made."

So are the Crusaders, who had to replace their top three scorers from last season, Austin and Patrick Large and Chris Reda.

But Unger has paired with freshman Liam Walsh and senior Garrett Godlewski to give the Crusaders one of the most productive lines in the league. Walsh, whose older brother, Matt Walsh, had 60 points for the 2011-12 Crusaders, and Godlewski have been on the other end of many of Unger's assists, combining for 38 goals.

"They're both great at burying pucks," Unger said. "I like to control the puck and set up other players, and they're good at getting open."

The three are among seven Crusaders who have scored at least 18 points this season and have the Crusaders second in the league at 6.2 goals per game, which is almost a goal a game more than last season when Bishop Canevin went 16-1-2 in the regular season and lost in the Penguins Cup semifinals to Pine-Richland.

Unger said it was tough not to be able to help his team against the Rams, but he'll be around for this postseason. With a talented offense to pair with three-time PIHL all-star Nikita Meskin in net, the Crusaders, barring an injury, will be the favorite heading into Penguins Cup playoffs, which start March 3.

Bishop Canevin has won six Penguins Cup titles in program history, the last in 2011 when Unger was a freshman.

"I was upset for the team last year; I really wanted to see them win," Unger said."We have a good team and we're capable of winning it, but we need to come to practice and work hard."

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