Mars hockey players celebrate a goal in last week’s PIHL Class A semifinal victory over Westmont Hilltop. The Planets will face Quaker Valley in the Penguins Cup final today at Consol Energy Center.
Mars and Quaker Valley may not be chums on the ice, but they are quite familiar to each other. “We’ve played them more than any other team,” Quaker Valley coach Kevin Quinn said. The two hockey teams will meet for the sixth time in two years today when they clash for the Class A Penguins Cup at 5 p.m. at Consol Energy Center. The game will be a rematch of last year’s Penguins Cup title game. The Quakers won that contest, 4-2. In fact, Quaker Valley has defeated the Planets four straight times since suffering a 4-3 loss to Mars in November of 2011. Those wins have come by scores of 7-0, 4-2, 5-2 and 4-0. Quaker Valley was 22-0 in the regular season this year and that one-goal loss to Mars is the Quakers’ lone defeat over the past two seasons. Mars is 17-3-1 this year with two of those defeats coming at the hands of QV. “We feel like we can play with them. We match up well with them,” Mars assistant coach Steve Neese said. “Penalties have hurt us in our losses. “We have to stay out of the penalty box against Quaker Valley. Their power play is deadly. It’s the best in the league.” Both teams have depth in terms of goal scorers. The Quakers have six players with 13 or more tallies this season, Jimmy Perkins (33), Ryan Dickson (28) Adam Pilewicz (25) and Connor Quinn (20) have 20 or more goals. Five Quakers — Perkins, Pilewicz, Quinn, Clayton Bouchard and Dickson — have scored more than 50 points. “We run three lines out there and they’re all successful,” Coach Quinn said. “The deeper we go in a game, we’re still fresh and that’s been a big plus for us.” The Planets have six players with nine or more goals. Craig Mazzotta leads the way with 22 goals and 19 assists. Nick Makozy has 19 goals, Max Master and Ed Schwadron 14 goals each. Mars is appearing in its sixth consecutive Penguins Cup championship game. “A lot of people thought we’d be down this year after graduating so many top players from last season,” Neese said. “These guys have proven those people wrong. “We’ve played more as a team this year than in past years.” Quinn said Mars is always in the hunt because it always has quality players. “They’ve developed a program out there that’s working for them,” Quinn said. Quaker Valley fell short of the Cup for a few seasons because of a lack of senior leadership, Quinn added. Both teams have quality goaltending as well. The Planets’ Christian Knapp is 12-1-1 with three shutouts, a 1.56 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. “Overall, our team defense is better than it’s been in a long time,” Neese said. Quaker Valley has two effective netminders in Parker Sherry (12-0 with five shutouts, 1.06 GAA) and Jonathan Pijar (8-0, three shutouts, 0.82 GAA). Sherry will get the start tonight.