One thing the Seneca Valley ice hockey team has going for it is a surplus of talented forwards. The Raiders have five players averaging at least a point a game, and at the heart of that core is senior center Ethan Kipin, a player that Seneca Valley head coach Anthony Raco calls one of the more dynamic skaters in the PIHL.
“Ethan is agile and he generates speed quickly,” Raco said. “He is quick to press on defense and moves the puck quickly and forces the opposition to make quick decisions in their zone.”
Kipin is a balanced player in terms of goals (5) and assists (6), and he credits his production to his hockey IQ.
“I know my line mates, and I am always trying to set them up,” Kipin said. “Sometimes I pass the puck before they are ready for it.”
Kipin has been playing hockey since he was 4, and although some of his family tried to guide him in the direction of football, his grandmother came through with a set of hockey equipment for him, and the rest is history.
“I like the contact and hitting people,” Kipin said. “I have always played center, and I like to move and fly around the ice. I hate standing still, I like to keep the momentum up and go 100 mph and move the puck.”
And move the puck Kipin and his line does. With Andrew Gagnon (4 goals and 4 assists) on one side, and Brendan MacFarlane (5 goals and 11 assists) on the other, the Raiders’ top two lines are difficult for opponents to match up against.
The combination of Kipin, Gagnon and MacFarlane is not a new one. The trio has been playing together since they were bantam and pee-wee players, and they also play together on a travel team, making them one of the more consistent lines in the area.
“Nothing compares to hockey,” Kipin said. “It is so rewarding to work together and reach our goals. That is the greatest thing ever.”
Kipin said he wants to play hockey in college, or play juniors, but will look at all his options before he makes a decision.
Coming out of the holiday break, the Raiders are 5-5 overall despite two tough, one-goal losses, something Kipin said can be corrected by the team playing a little calmer late in games.
Seneca Valley, with 10 points, trails North Allegheny by five points in Section 2-AAA. North Allegheny scored a 2-1 win Dec. 17. Three days later, Upper St. Clair edged the Raiders, 1-0.
Kipin said giving up a goal against Upper St. Clair with 43 seconds left in regulation was the kind of loss that easily could have gone the other way with a little more attention to detail for Seneca Valley.
“We have given up leads all season, and we have not kept the lead well,” Kipin said. “I think players get anxious and don’t always think clearly.”
Being one of the team captains, Kipin said making sure the younger players are listening and sharing his experiences with them are important to helping the team grow.
“You have to give them respect and let them know what they can do to correct mistakes so we can all get to the same level,” Kipin said.
Raco said Kipin has a great work ethic and has been a role model for the other players stemming all the way back to summer camp.
“Ethan is an independent player, and he works hard,” Raco said. “We have a really young defense, and he took the time to work with them to help them get better. It is good to see him taking on that team aspect.
“He is one of 10 seniors who really want to make a run (at the Penguins Cup),” Raco added. “They all really want to make the most of this opportunity, and it is nice to see them all step up.”
Kipin said the team can turn it on and get hot if they focus, something the Raiders have lacked in the past two games.
“I feel like sometimes we don’t want it as bad as we should,” he said. “I feel like we have one of the best teams as far as skill, and we have one of the best goalies.
“We have to play three full periods, if we do that, we can win out.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.