North Xtra: Mars out to ruin Quakers' perfect hockey season
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When Mars Area was looking to become the first PIHL Class A team since the mid-1990s to win four PIHL titles in a row last March, it was Quaker Valley that ended the run.
Now this season, it's the Planets who stand the best chance to stop the Quakers from making history.
Quaker Valley (16-0-0) is trying to become the first PIHL team since the 2009 Latrobe squad to finish undefeated.
"[Quaker Valley] is pretty deep on both sides and have good goaltending," Mars coach Steve Meyers said. "I don't think they are unbeatable, but it is going to take a near perfect game from anyone to beat them."
Mars (14-2-1 entering the week) will have that chance Tuesday when it takes on Quaker Valley at Bladerunners Warrendale at 6:30 p.m.
The two teams met in November, with the Quakers winning, 5-2. Neither team has lost since that game. The three-goal difference tied for the smallest margin of victory this season for the Quakers, who also beat Freeport by three goals Dec. 1. Quaker Valley plays Freeport tonight.
Despite the increasing possibility that the Quakers could end up undefeated, the Quakers aren't concentrating on the accomplishment.
"We shy away from talking about that," Quaker Valley sophomore goaltender Parker Sherry said. "Coach [Kevin] Quinn, nothing impresses him. He likes to try and knock us down a peg or two at times to make sure we don't get too cocky."
Quinn has been instrumental in keeping Quaker Valley competitive year after year. He was the head coach when the program played its first varsity game in 1997 and has built it into a powerhouse. The Quakers broke through with their first Penguins Cup title in 2008 against Mars. Then they won their second against the Planets last season.
"With success, more players want to be a part of that and start playing," Quinn said. "For us, it has been a lot of work. We have to an efficient program and continue to develop our players."
In terms of enrollment, Quaker Valley is seventh out of 12 Class A schools in terms of enrollment at 233, but it will have a full junior varsity and varsity squad for the first time next season.
Mars, meanwhile, is the largest Class A school with a male enrollment of 389. But like Quaker Valley, the Planets have had coaching stability. The Planets have basically had the same coaches at all their levels since Meyers took over five years ago.
Meyers said the battles over the years with Quaker Valley have instilled a respect between the programs.
"I'm not sure how much of a rivalry it is, to be honest," Meyers said. "We have a healthy respect for them and the success they've had. They've got a good program from the bottom up but I don't really think of it much like a rivalry."
Sherry, however, said the games are definitely heated. He played in his first Mars-Quaker Valley game in November, stopping 12-of-14 shots to earn the win.
"It's like Pens-Flyers," Sherry said. "There's respect, but on the ice there's also an all-around dislike amongst the teams.
"You know there is a lot riding on it every time we meet."
Tuesday's game will be no different.
First Published February 7, 2013 12:00 am