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Quaker Valley, Sewickley Academy hockey teams ready for playoffs

Shawn Annarelli
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Hunter Mattie (left) and Quaker Valley face Franklin Regional in the playoff opener.

Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy will concentrate on the qualities that got them into the playoffs and leave their struggles in the rearview mirror.

Sewickley Academy recently clinched a playoff berth and will be the fifth or sixth seed in the Class A North division. The spot is a credit to the team’s midseason play, when it went on a 5-2 run. The Panthers have lost four of their past five games.

Panthers coach Chris Chiusano said the team gained momentum after its most recent performances: a 12-3 victory over Beaver and a 5-4 loss to Meadville.

“We had senior rec night when we lost by one goal to Meadville, an obviously very good team,” Chiusano said. “Despite the loss, we held the lead for a while, and I thought our team played extremely well. We’ve gotten a lot of confidence out of those games. They’ll be a steppingstone for us.”

Chiusano told his team to “focus on the process” of playing hard and smart.

The formula to Sewickley Academy’s success isn’t hard to figure out.

The team is 7-0 when Matthew Hajdukiewicz — he has accounted for 45 percent of the team’s goals — scores at least three points. The Panthers get secondary scoring from players such as Jack Duggan and Andrew Beck.

“There are other guys doing well that might not show up on the scoresheet, especially on the defensive side,” Chiusano said. “It’s important to get that effort from everyone, and we are getting that, even you’re not showing up on the scoresheet with a lot of points.”

Chiusano also must make a decision about his goalie for the playoffs.

Thomas Sykes might have gained an edge by stopping 57 of 62 shots against Meadville, though Brady Mosberger has been in net for six of the team’s eight wins.

“I have a good idea for who will start,” Chiusano said. “The box scores don’t tell everything. I think I know who I am going with, but I’m not ready to give that out publicly yet. I’ve seen good things from both guys.”

Quaker Valley has put a 2-11 start to the season behind it and won three of the last five games to earn the Class AA Northwest division’s bottom seed.

“All year long, our concern has been making the playoffs given our early record,” Quakers coach Kevin Quinn said. “Getting that clinched spot over the last nine games was a great feeling. We had a couple one-goal losses, so we could have easily been 8-1 in those last nine.”

The team is in the same position it was a year ago, when it won the play-in round in overtime and went on a winning streak all the way to the Penguins Cup finals, where it lost to Armstrong.

The Quakers will be reminded of last season as much as possible.

“We’re definitely talking to them daily about that,” Quinn said. “The speech is about buying in. When they buy in completely, they can beat anyone. They proved that against Latrobe last year and Pine-Richland. We were even tied against Armstrong after one period in the Cup. We have to believe.”

The Quakers will face Franklin Regional in a rematch. The first game featured 64 penalty minutes, 16 infractions and a combined .732 save percentage for the goalies.

Despite the sloppy first game, Quinn is confident his team can carry its solid late-season offense, defense and goaltending into the playoffs.

The team’s offensive core — Josh Bemis, Cole Musser, Dan Fagan and Dylan Roebuck — has combined for 33 points in the last five games.

The team’s defense and goaltending from Colin Rice also has improved. He has a .901 save percentage since January, a 66-point increase over his early-season .835 save percentage.

“It’s no secret that it’s a challenge for us to compete in AA, and we’ve done everything we can with the small numbers we have,” Quinn said. “That being said, we’re extremely proud to make the playoffs. It’s been a real tale of two seasons for us.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.