Hockey Notebook: Seneca Valley returns to full strength for playoffs

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Seneca Valley's hopes of a top four seed and a first-round bye in the upcoming Class AAA Penguins Cup playoffs were all but dashed Jan. 28 against Shaler.

The Raiders and Titans had a skirmish during and after the game, which led to a total of seven ejections between the two sides.

But the consequences faced in the aftermath have been worse, with multi-game penalties for players on both sides.

The Raiders had seven players suspended, including two of its senior leaders in Tanner Pfeffer and captain Chris Marziotto. Pfeffer, one of the best goaltenders in the league, missed four games before returning for the regular-season finale Tuesday against Norwin.

Marziotto was one of two Raiders, along with Ben Jarrett, to be given a five-game suspension, meaning his first game back will be in the first round of the playoffs.

"Not being able to play and having to just sit there and watch while your team is on the ice has been tough on us," Marziotto said.

It has taught Marziotto an important lesson.

"The biggest mistake is we didn't get right off the ice," he said. "We should have just sat on the bench and got off the ice as soon as possible."

The Raiders were 9-6 after the victory against Shaler, but have gone 2-3 since. Two of those losses, however, were against two of the league's top teams, Bethel Park and North Allegheny, by scores of 5-4.

"At first, I think [the announcement of the suspensions] was mentally exhausting," Seneca Valley coach Anthony Raco said. "It all hit us at once, on a Tuesday, and we had to play North Allegheny that night, but we competed and lost, 5-4.

"I think our JV call-ups have done an outstanding job. The next game we lost to Bethel Park, 5-4. So I've been pretty pleased with everyone given the situation."

Now with a full squad back for the playoffs, Seneca Valley could be a very dangerous team to face.

The Raiders have wins against Peters Township, Penn-Trafford, Central Catholic and Pine-Richland, all of whom are in the top eight in the league.

Although Seneca Valley went 0-4 against Bethel Park and North Allegheny during the regular season, the four losses were by a combined five goals.

Additionally, the suspensions have given Seneca Valley more motivation heading into the Penguins Cup.

"We definitely have more motivation," Marziotto said. "We want to come back and show what we can do. We're ready to go."

History made at North Hills

North Hills finished the regular season with two impressive victories against Plum to sew up the final playoff spot in Class AA.

In addition to earning a playoff spot this season, North Hills (10-12) made history by becoming the first Indians team in 41 years to win a section championship.

With 20 points, the Indians finished well ahead of second-place Moon (which had 11 points heading into Thursday night's game against Hampton) in Section 2.

The title comes in the program's third season back after taking a one-year hiatus from varsity hockey. North Hills has increased its win total in each of the three seasons since returning.

"This [title] just shows the work and commitment of the kids," North Hills coach Brandon Dudt-Mulzet said. "Especially the seniors, who have been a big part of our success since restarting the varsity program. We've gotten better each season and the kids are seeing the results from the work and effort they've given."

With North Hills grabbing the final playoff spot, the Class AA Penguins Cup playoff field is set.

The eight-team, single-elimination playoffs, which will start Monday, will include Bishop Canevin, Erie Cathedral Prep, Armstrong, Plum, Hampton, defending Penguins Cup and state champion Latrobe, Chartiers Valley and North Hills.

North Hills will play either Bishop Canevin or Cathedral Prep, depending on the result of Chartiers Valley's game against West Allegheny late Thursday night.

Boyle notches hat trick

Shaler senior Patrick Boyle, who scored his first career goal in January, reached another milestone Tuesday night when he recorded his first career hat trick in the Titans'14-7 loss to Butler.

Boyle was born with a condition called VATER that has stunted his growth (he's 5-foot-2, 110 pounds) and forced him to have more than 100 surgeries in his life. He has been a member of Shaler's hockey team since he was a sophomore and scored his first career goal against Upper St. Clair Jan. 7.

But he raised his career goal total to four Tuesday, and also added an assist.

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