BP hockey needs to expect Peters Township’s best game to have a chance of victory

Russell Finelsen, Staff Writer, Assistant Editor, Sports Editor

In the home finale of the season, the boys varsity hockey team will take on Peters Township on Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the 2014 finals.  Both teams are coming off wins against State College and Mt. Lebanon, respectively. In addition, this match will most likely determine if Peters ties for second or first in the Varsity Class AAA standings.

Even though BP (13-5-2, 28 points) sits four points behind Peters in the standings with two games left, they still have a slim chance of getting second if the Black Hawks can pull out a win against the Indians from Peters Township. Furthermore, a win for BP will separate the team from fourth place Canon-McMillan.

Bethel Park, who is looking to avenge a 3-1 loss to Peters on December 2, 2014, is led on offense by Louie McLinden. This star forward, who made the All-Star team this season, leads the squad with 13 assists and 13 goals for 26 points. In addition, he has scored four game-winning goals and six power play goals. This has helped BP score 3.35 goals per game this season. And, even though McLinden has the most penalty minutes on the team with 28, he is an important ingredient to the team.

“Louis is a key to our team’s success. If he plays his best, as we ask all players [of], ….we will compete well,” said Coach James McVay II.

Accompanying McLinden on offense will be fellow All-Stars Antonio Esposito and Tyler Kruszewski. Esposito has 12 goals, eight assists, and two power play goals this season. Meanwhile, Kruszewski has nine goals, six assists, four power play goals, and a game-winning goal going into the Peters game.

Additionally, even though Andrew Bello is not an All-Star, Peters should know where he is at all times. Bello has nine goals and 12 assists this season, including a goal in the last game vs. Peters this season and four goals in the last overall game against State College.

Coach McVay said, “[The team’s] strength is working together. Peters is a very good team, and we lost a lead [in our last game against Peters].”

If BP wants to win, they need to make sure that their offense works together to score goals.

On the defensive side, All-Star defenseman Jacob Mueser and fellow All-Star goalie William Lowe III anchor a stellar defense. So far this season, the defense has only allowed 41 goals, second to Peters. Lowe III has played every game and minute for BP, and has 391 saves this season. This makes a 91% save rate. In addition, he only allows two goals per game. In front of him is Mueser, who has stopped countless opposing forwards from scoring. This defensive duo is strong, but they will have their hands full with Peters Township’s fast paced attack.

Peters Township (15-3-2, 32 points) is led by phenom defenseman Zachery Gielarowski. Even though he was not selected to the All-Star team, he is a scoring monster and an equally good scoring-stopper. Gielarowski has 29 points this season, which includes 13 goals, 16 assists, four power play goals, and three game-winning goals. In addition, he is a big force on the defensive side. He is very good at stealing the puck and not letting the opposing team score. BP should be careful of this dual-threat star on both sides of the ice.

Guarding Peters Township’s net is an elite set of goalies and defensemen. In front of the net are a plethora of goalies for Peters. Though Tony Lejeune has played the most minutes with 625, he is only 7-3-2, allowing 30 goals and saving only 277 shots for a 90.2% save percentage However, All-Star goalie Kyle Madore and fellow goalie Caden Shell are farther down on the depth chart and have proven that they can carry the load. Both goalies have played four games each and have allowed eight goals total. In addition, they both have a save percentage above 93%. So, even if Lejeune is not doing well, BP will still have to be faced with as good or even better goalies.

Peters Township’s defensemen also get the job done. All-Stars Carter Ekberg, Max Boss, and Chad Wyatt have shown that they are trouble for any team’s scoring forwards. In addition, with Gielarowski’s assistance, this quad could possibly be the best defensemen group in Varsity Class AAA.

Even with their stellar defense, BP should still be afraid of Peters Township’s offense. The offense for the Indians has scored 92 goals this season, second in Varsity Class AAA behind Canon-McMillan. Leading the offense alongside Gielarowski are All-Star forwards Brady Cochrane and Adam Alavi. Cochrane is second on the team with 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) and three power play goals. Alavi is fourth on the team. Even with only playing ten games, Alavi has 20 points, including nine goals and 11 assists. However, even with these star individuals, Peters has even scoring throughout. While Gielarowski, Cochrane, Alavi, and fellow forward Sam Burnes have 94 points combined, the rest of the team has 132. This shows that any Peters play can infiltrate through a defense and score, which means that BP better tighten their defense to limit scoring.

As a side note, BP has the least penalty minutes in the division with 110. Meanwhile, Peters has the third most with 312. This could be a game-changing statistic, since if Peters keeps on getting penalized, BP could get more chances for power play goals.

End Result: BP will have to do its best to stop Peters from scoring, and I just do not see this happening. 4-3, Peters Township.