West Xtra: West Allegheny senior has a hot hand on ice

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West Allegheny senior Jess Ligas has always wanted to be involved in the same activities as his older brother, Joe.

"I've always looked up to him," Ligas said. "And I just want to thank him. Whether it was music or golf, I just wanted to do the same things he was doing."

That includes playing hockey, as Jess Ligas decided to put on his skates at a young age after Joe started playing. Now Jess Ligas is one of the best sophomores in the PIHL.

Despite playing in just 14 of his team's 21 games this season due to obligations to his amateur squad, the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U16 team, Ligas leads the Indians in goals (14) and points (37).

He also earned a second trip to the PIHL Class AA All-Star Game, where he scored a hat trick and added an assist on Feb. 9.

"Jess has been a big part of our team," West Allegheny coach Timon Veach said. "He helps us significantly when he's there.

"Sometimes he tries to do too much at the high school level. He needs his game to mature a little and create scoring chances without the puck. But he's great skating with the puck and he can excel at this level based on his athletic ability alone."

Ligas burst onto the high school scene last season, leading West Allegheny in goals (21) and points (36) to become the only freshman voted into the Class AA All-Star Game.

He's actually improved on those numbers this season based on a "per-game" basis, scoring more points per game.

"He's gotten stronger this year and I think his work ethic has gotten better," Veach said. "He works pretty hard in practice."

Ligas credits much of his success to his linemates, Sean Weber and Jaret Mielnicki. Weber, also a sophomore who played with Ligas last season, is second on West Allegheny with 24 points. Mielnicki has eight goals and 16 points on the season, with six goals and 11 points coming in just the last five games alone.

Ligas said one of the reasons the trio works so well together is the chemistry. Ligas, Weber and Mielnicki are all neighbors and often hang out together.

"We hang out a lot with each other and sleep over at each other's houses," Ligas said. "That type of chemistry always helps on the ice, especially with communication."

When Ligas isn't hanging out with his teammates, or playing hockey for the Indians and Pens Elite, he is often found writing and playing music.

Ligas learned how to play the guitar at the age of 12 from his father. Around the same time, he began writing his own music. He has played with a few bands over the years.

If hockey doesn't work out, Ligas said he would like to be involved in music. But his main focus still remains on the ice.

"My goal is to go as far in hockey as possible," Ligas said. "I'd like to go high D-1 or juniors, and maybe play in the NHL someday. That's obviously a long shot, but I'm just going to keep working as hard as possible to reach the goal I've had since I was a little kid."

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