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Seneca Valley hockey reflects on ‘exciting season’ | TribLIVE.com
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Seneca Valley hockey reflects on ‘exciting season’

Tribune-Review
| Wednesday, March 9, 2016 7:51 p.m
CJSVAlexanderCrilley030316
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Alexander Crilley competes against North Allegeny during a PIHL game Feb. 4, 2016, at the Bairel Ice Complex.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Mac Michael competes against North Allegeny during a PIHL game Feb. 4, 2016, at the Bairel Ice Complex.
CJSVLukeVilella030316
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Luke Vilella competes against North Allegeny during a PIHL game Feb. 4, 2016, at the Bairel Ice Complex.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Shane Galis (91) and goalie Dylan Sloat compete against North Allegeny during a PIHL game Feb. 4, 2016, at the Bairel Ice Complex.
CJSVChristopherLipnicky030316
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Seneca Valley's Christopher Lipnicky competes against North Allegeny during a PIHL game Feb. 4, 2016, at the Bairel Ice Complex.

Seneca Valley’s quest for a PIHL Penguins Cup Class AAA championship was cut short.

However, the Raiders won’t let the result overshadow their year.

“It was an exciting season. There were a lot of ups and downs, but I think that holds true for most of the teams in our classification. You could be riding high one week and lose two in a row the next week,” Seneca Valley coach Anthony Raco said. “It was just a really fun year. It’s such a good group of kids.”

Seneca Valley entered the postseason as the No. 6 seed, although three points separated it from No. 4 and the Raiders were just six behind top-seeded North Allegheny in the tight Class AAA race. Second-seeded Erie Cathedral Prep rallied to knock off Seneca Valley, 2-1, in the first round.

The Raiders, who finished their season 11-10-0, opened the scoring on Chris Lipnicky’s goal 10 minutes, 58 seconds into the first period. That held up until early in the third. Seneca Valley had chances to add to its lead, but Ramblers goaltender Jacob Kucharski denied several quality opportunities.

“It was a tight game and a good defensive game by both teams. We had a lot of good scoring opportunities where we thought the puck was going into the net. But their goalie played a phenomenal game. He stole the show,” Raco said. “If you have a hot goalie in the playoffs, you definitely have an opportunity to go far.”

While Kucharski shut the door on the Raiders, Cathedral Prep broke the shutout 44 seconds into the third period to knot the score. Joe Kelly added the go-ahead goal late in the period.

“It was a tough loss to swallow,” Raco said. “We just couldn’t find one more goal.”

Nevertheless, Raco said he was happy with what he saw from his team, especially the squad’s seniors: Alex Crilley, Shane Galis, Connor Williams, Shane Hepner, Luke Vilella, Jared Hulbert, Mac Michael, Andy King, Cole Severson and Alyssa Peterson.

“We had a lot of leadership from the seniors, not separating themselves from the underclassmen,” Raco said. “Everyone stuck together through the tough times and good times, too. I hope the players returning next year can learn from those seniors. That’s the kind of attitude we want for all the teams in our association.

“It’s just such a good group,” he continued. “There were certain seniors on the team it was my first year coaching, and I developed a really good bond with them. Then we had players I’ve known a while. I’ve coached Galis and Crilley since they were in eighth grade. It’s bittersweet to see them grow up as young men and move on. I coached Alyssa two years on varsity and one at on the JV level. She’s off to play college hockey, and I am really excited for her. Hulbert was a three-year varsity player, and he has taken on every role and does everything we ask him to do. We hold that group in high regard.”

Raco also complimented his assistant coaches, Erik Galis and Greg Hulbert, for their contribution.

“They put in a ton of work. They are unbelievable to have at your side,” he said. “Their contributions are absolutely associated with our success. Same with Jeff Mattys, who is our president. He has helped drive the association in the direction it needs to go.”

While the Raiders’ long season just wrapped up, they are looking forward to getting started on the next campaign.

“We have tryouts at the end of April, and we’ll start back on the ice in June. I told the players to get a little rest in between. We don’t go super hard in summer,” Raco said. “With the high numbers of seniors we’re losing, we want to get first-time varsity players up to speed quickly. The season is a grind.

“A lot of sweat and hard work goes into it. When it ends the way you don’t want it to, it’s disappointing. But, I know the players want to be back on ice sooner rather than later.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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