Christian Louria grew up playing hockey against his brother, Mike, and his friends, all of whom were four or five years older.
That experience helped Louria hold his own as a freshman last season on the North Allegheny varsity hockey team.
"It helped a great deal," Louria said. "It was a great opportunity to play with all the great seniors we had. I was thankful to be put of the team."
Louria earned his spot with the senior-laden Tigers, who went on to win the PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup and state titles.
North Allegheny missed its top defenseman, Harry Kramer, for the first half of last season with an injury. But Louria filled in admirably, and by the time Kramer returned, Louria had become one of the team's top defensemen.
"I think it was surprising to everyone how good he was, especially the seniors," North Allegheny coach Jim Black said. "But he was so steady."
Louria isn't a big point scorer, tallying just five points in 25 games last year and seven points in 17 games this season.
But Louria's best skills come in his own zone, where the reach he displays with his 6-foot-2 frame helps stop the other team's top lines. His skills at stifling the league's top scorers comes from years of practice trying to stop his brother from scoring on him.
Mike Louria currently plays for the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League, where he entered this week ninth in the league in scoring. He has committed to play next season at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, a Frozen Four finalist last season.
Christian said he started playing hockey at the age of 6 because of Mike's involvement in the sport. The Lourias grew up in Gibraltar, Mich., about 30 minutes south of Detroit.
Growing up a die-hard Red Wings fan, Louria said he had a healthy hatred for the Penguins -- who played Detroit in the Stanley Cup final in 2008 and '09 -- by the time he moved to Pittsburgh for his eighth-grade year.
He said the move was difficult at first, but he has fit in nicely at North Allegheny, especially on the hockey team.
Louria's role has increased greatly this season, to the point where he controls how much he plays.
"He can stay out as long as he wants to," Black said. "He plays a lot of minutes. We use him on special teams a lot and we give him the green light to play as many minutes as he wants."
Louria's performance this season drew the attention of opposing coaches, who voted him as an alternate for the PIHL Class AAA All-Star Game. Due to an absence, Louria represented North Allegheny in the Feb. 9 game against the best players from the area.
But if Black is right, Louria may be representing junior teams instead of the Tigers in the near future.
"I'd be very surprised if I had him until he was a senior," Black said. "That's how good he is."