SHSHL Ice Hockey Notebook (1-12-22)


Pagliei powering Panthers

Quakertown’s first two years in the SHSHL were marked by the standard growing pains that all new teams go through—building an identity, creating a culture, developing consistency and chemistry, gaining experience.

Now in its third varsity season, the Panthers are seeing the hard work and dedication pay off.

Quakertown is among the most improved teams in the league—they’ve already won more games this year than in their first two seasons combined (2-13-1 overall in 2019-20 and 1-10-0-1 in 2020-21) and are in the thick of the hunt for the American Conference title and a postseason berth.

Coach Keith Krem points to the Panthers’ balance this season—something the team lacked in years past. Explosive offense, solid defense, and strong goaltending have all come together as the Panthers have opened the season at 4-5 overall, 4-3 and tied atop what is expected to be a hotly contested conference.

But while balance has been key, Krem is quick to point out one other reason why the Panthers are playing as well as they are.

“Anthony Pagliei … I can’t sing his praises enough,” Krem said. “He’s been on the team since the beginning, and he’s done a nice job in terms of getting the team to buy into what we want to do and how we want to play hockey. I can’t talk enough about the job he’s doing.”

The Panthers’ captain is not only the leader when it comes to setting the tone, the senior forward has also adjusted his game to help support a young Panther team.

“Anthony is not trying to be the superstar,” Krem said. “You can see that a lot in high school hockey, where two or three guys make up the bulk of the scoring. Anthony could most certainly do that, he’s got the talent, but he’s not playing that way. He’s playing with a freshman on his line. Half our team are freshmen or sophomores. He’s making sure they’re all involved. As a leader of a group like that, he’s doing a really nice job.

“That speaks to his character. He plays the game the right way and he buys into what we’re doing here.”

Pagliei has 15 points (7G, 8A) to lead a Panther offense that has seen 14 players contribute to the scoring.

And while Pagliei takes his role as captain seriously, and wants to win, the bottom line is … right now, he’s just having a blast every time he suits up in the blue and black.

“Being in this locker room is just so much fun,” Pagliei said. “I feel like we’ve got a better atmosphere this year, we’re in a better place as a team this year.

“Everyone gets along, it’s just so much fun. For me and the other seniors who have been here since the beginning, we really try to make it a fun culture, because that leads to chemistry on the ice.”

As one might expect, Pagliei is more than willing to sacrifice personal stats for team success.

“It was important to me that the younger players get involved and get experience early,” he said. “Personally, I don’t like to be the one-man show. I’ve always been a playmaker, that’s more my natural game. And I want the team to be successful. It’s not about how many goals I end up with, I want to put the team in a good place when I leave.”

With the team seeing success this year, the focus has turned to discipline—not taking bad penalties and making smart decisions both with and without the puck. Having Pagliei to exemplify that mindset is proving to be invaluable.

“We preach playing disciplined hockey,” Krem said. “You can preach that, but you have to have your leaders playing that way. We’re a young group, so if the experienced guys aren’t buying in, the rest of the team won’t either. Seeing Anthony play the way he does has been a huge benefit to the younger guys.

“And they follow what he does. Anthony has always been a leader, even when he was one of the younger guys on the team. He carries himself well, he’s mature, he’s always been one of the dogs in the lead pack. But he’s really come into his own this year, he is the defined leader of this team, without question.”

And while Pagliei also plays club hockey—and will play next year for Penn State Harrisburg—there’s an unparalleled satisfaction that comes from having been a part of this Quakertown team from its first varsity game, and now seeing the results show up in the win column.

“It’s awesome, I love where we’re at right now,” he said. “We put in those years of pain and getting blown out. I can’t even explain what it feels like now, knowing that we’re not like that anymore. It’s fun and it’s exciting going into every game knowing you can win.

“For the school, it’s great. People are talking about us around the school, we’re getting our name out there in the league. Winning for this team and for the school is unlike anything else. Spirits are so high right now. We just want to keep it going and see how far we can go.”

And wherever Quakertown ends up at the end of this season, Pagliei and his fellow seniors will have a special legacy to leave to those who will return and follow in their footsteps.

“It’s really special for guys like Anthony who have been through the first three seasons,” Krem said. “Anthony has gotten the unique experience to come in his final year and—whether we make the postseason or not—he is most certainly leaving the team in a better place. And that’s a life lesson to carry with him, making sure you’re leaving something in a better place than when you started.”


Council Rock North working to establish itself

Council Rock North is back … and the Indians don’t plan on going away anytime soon.

The recent past has been fairly tumultuous for North. Over the past five seasons, the Indians have been in and out of the SHSHL, playing a league slate in 2017-18 and 2019-20 seasons.

Council Rock North has returned to SHSHL play in 2021-22. First-year head coach Greg McDonald is working to establish a sense of consistency in the program as the squad works to build itself up in the coming seasons.

The Indians know the results won’t be immediate, but they’re putting in the work to lay the proper foundation.

“Early in the season, it was a lot of just getting familiar with the kids, consistency, establishing the culture we want to work for,” McDonald said.  “It’s been a learning process, and you can see how inconsistent we’ve been with our scores, and that goes back to participation in practice and games. Early on, we didn’t have the same lineup two games in a row. There have been a lot of growing pains.

“I’ve been around the game long enough to know that the reality is, to get success, it does take time. We’re a young team. We’ve got one senior on the team, so we’re taking more of a long-term approach. It’s really trying to connect on an individual level to each player.”

And while McDonald is more focused on improvement and chemistry than he is with the team’s record, it certainly helps that the Indians have already picked up three wins on the season, including two wins against National Conference opponents.

“Our overarching message is about culture, but the fact is that it’s also about winning, you play varsity hockey, it’s about winning,” McDonald said. “Getting some wins early was huge for us, and honestly, there were a couple other games we kept it close and we were right in it but we ended up losing.

“We’re preaching positive attitude and discipline and controlling what we can control, but getting a couple of wins does help. I can talk or bring experience and strategy and anything else, but the reality is, you need to win to be credible. I can talk about anything, but if the kids aren’t seeing improvements, aren’t picking up wins here and there, I’m going to lose them.”

The Indians are doing just that. After dropping their season debut, the team picked up its first win in a 10-5 victory over William Tennent. Following three consecutive losses, North entered this week riding a two-game winning streak with identical 6-3 victories over Bensalem and North Penn. Coming into the week, North stood at a very respectable 3-4 overall (2-3 National Conference).

And leaders are starting to emerge throughout the roster.

On the offensive end, Karson Grainey has exploded on the scene with 13 goals and 7 assists in 6 games. Nick Hahn isn’t far behind with 15 points (6G, 9A).

“Karson is a phenomenal talent,” McDonald said. “It’s tough, because the speed of the game is one way for him and at times, we have to keep up. He’s a really talented player. Nick Hahn is really strong and he’s off to a great start.

“Jackson Accardi is a big strong freshman, one of the most powerful skaters I’ve seen. He’s really good right now as a freshman.”

Accardi has racked up 12 points (8G, 4A). Jackson Mosley, Lucas Siomos, and Noah Epstein have also started to establish themselves. And senior Wilton Pasch (5G, 4A) is doing his part both on the ice and in the locker room.

“As a coach, I think you stress development more, and you set more of that tone,” McDonald said. “There are kids on this roster that do need development, but there are also kids that compete at a high level on club teams, so you’ve got to put out the expectation to win as well. It’s about finding the balance and making sure every kid finds their role and understands how important their role is.

“We’re working on our identity, and as a team with no JV, you’re making it work with who’s there. What I will tell you, the kids are good kids. They’re working hard and they’re buying in. I see wins, not consistent wins, but we’re getting them in there.”


North Penn looking to make some noise in 2022

The beginning of the hockey season hasn’t gone as North Penn had hoped. Inexperience and a depleted squad plagued the Knights in the early stages of the season. As a result, the Knights come into the week winless in four Continental Conference games and have only one victory overall.

But if you think that means the Knights are ready to throw in the towel on the season, think again.

“The season has not gone the way we’d laid it out, but the kids continue to battle through it,” said North Penn coach Kevin Vaitis. “I give a lot of credit to the kids. We haven’t come out with a win in some of these recent games, but the effort’s been there, and that’s all you can ask for.

“We’ve been dealing with injuries and Covid. Every game it’s different guys in different positions. And we have a relatively young team. So we’re getting great experience for all the players, whether they’re seniors or freshmen, and they continue to battle each and every game. We’ve seen progress over the last couple weeks, and we’re getting healthy.”

If the Knights are to turn around their fortunes, they’ll be looking to their veteran players to show them the way. Fortunately for North Penn, they’ve got two stellar senior leaders to guide them.

Assistant captain Ben Mostochuck anchors the North Penn blueline. Already a standout defenseman, Mostochuck has upped his efforts both on and off the ice as a senior.

“At the end of his junior year, moving into his senior year, Ben knew this was going to be an expectation for him,” Vaitis said. “He’s stepped up into a leadership role and he’s really elevated his play. In the past, we’ve had other defensemen we’ve relied on to do certain things—quarterback the power play, things like that. With some of the defensemen that we’ve graduated, we’ve asked him to do some things on the ice that we hadn’t asked him to do in the past, and he’s embraced it.

“He’s also taking on some of the leadership, talking it up on the bench, keeping the guys upbeat.”

Captain Justin Yothers leads the Knights’ attack. He’s also the team’s leading scorer with 3 goals and 5 assists.

“Justin is another guy who’s been playing great,” Vaitis said. “He brings a lot of energy to the team. If he can get the puck in open ice, he can be dangerous with it. When we get possession of the puck, he’s the guy who’s been able to make it lead to a scoring chance or even a goal for us.”

But it takes more than the seniors to achieve success. It also takes the rest of the players stepping up to do their part. Vaitis has seen that in spades as the season has progressed.  

Freshman Cole Pluck has spent time playing both varsity and JV this season. Vaitis praised Pluck’s efforts of late, and the frosh was rewarded with his first varsity goal in a recent game against Council Rock North. Forward Joey Silvotti has played several games on defense in order to replace an injured defenseman.

“We asked Joey to slide back and play defense and he had a great attitude,” Vaitis said. “’Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do.’ That’s what you want to see.”

The Knights have also gotten some solid goaltending from Nick Ebbinghaus, who recorded a whopping 71 saves in a recent 6-3 loss to undefeated league power Pennridge. It was the fourth time this season that Ebbinghaus turned aside more than 35 shots in a game.

“Nick’s done a great job for us,” Vaitis said. “He kept us in that game against Pennridge.”

The return of defenseman Sam Mostochuck as well as forward Tony Tuozzo (2 goals in 2 games played) add to the high hopes that the Knights can make some noise in 2022.

“We’re starting to get guys back, trying to gel together here to go into the stretch run,” Vaitis said. “We’ve got enough guys that have played hockey long enough to know … you see it in all sports, anything can happen. You look at Tampa Bay in the NFL last year. They got in as a wildcard and win the Super Bowl. You get invited to the dance, anything can happen. If we can win a couple in a row and sneak into the playoffs, everybody starts with a clean slate.”