Nathan Breisinger, TribLIVE High School Sports Network, 01-21-2024
Riding into mid-January with an undefeated record and playing as one of the top teams in the PIHL isn’t easy, but it’s not unexpected when a roster is powered by six all-stars.
Chartiers Valley stands alone as the last remaining perfect program in Class A ice hockey with a 13-0 record.
Coach Paul Bonetti, who will accompany his players as one of the coaches for the Blue Division all-star competition, is gratified by the amount of representation from his program.
“You can only have so many players on the team, but we could’ve had more,” Bonetti said. “The players that were selected earned it. It’s a good group of kids that represent Chartiers Valley well.”
Forwards Chris DeAngelis, Brady Nairn, Romeo Isoldi and Noah Callender, defenseman Tyler Held, and goaltender Matthew Colberg are the six Colts’ selections that will take the ice at 1:50 p.m. Jan. 28 at the RMU Island Sports Center.
“It’s amazing. I’m glad that my work over four years has culminated in this, and I am especially grateful for the fact that I was elected alongside five of my teammates,” DeAngelis said.
“It’s going to be a great experience going with my teammates,” added Nairn, who will be making his second trip to the all-star game. “We’ve all become pretty close over the years but especially this season, and going with coach Paul makes it even better. He’s an amazing coach and person who deserves to be there with us.”
With plenty of all-star talent mixed with an abundance of experience, Chartiers Valley has seen an impressive turnaround after compiling a 6-13-1 record a year ago.
“There’s a palpable energy shift between last season and this season,” said DeAngelis, who serves as the Colts’ captain. “We have an extremely positive attitude this season, and I can see a difference in the team’s chemistry.”
DeAngelis, along with Isoldi, are two of four current Colts players who were fortunate enough to be on the last Chartiers Valley team that made a Penguins Cup run in 2021 when they lost to Indiana, 3-2. Their valuable experience will be needed for the remainder of the season.
“Sometimes teams that haven’t been in the playoffs, and we missed the playoffs the last two years, you’ll play a little tight in those games,” Bonetti said. “Having some of those players will be helpful. There’s a certain sort of reverence towards that and a seriousness about winning it again.”
The Chartiers Valley offense has leaned on veterans such as DeAngelis and Isoldi, who have each put up 20-point seasons already. As a junior, Nairn has also registered 20 points thus far with 11 goals.
However, the top offensive threat for the Colts has taken the league by storm. Callender, who’s only a freshman, has amassed 19 goals and 28 points. He quickly has generated high praise throughout the team.
“Noah is an incredible player, one of the best I’ve ever played with,” Nairn said. “I can’t even imagine how much better he’s going to get as he gets older. I’ve become good friends with Noah off the ice this year, and despite him being an amazing hockey player, he’s an even better person who’s always smiling and managing to make the people around him laugh.”
Coming off his third hat trick of the season against Wheeling Catholic, Callender has been lauded for his ability to think the game.
“He kind of anticipates plays the way a great NHL player like Sidney Crosby or Mario Lemieux would’ve done,” Bonetti said. “He can get to a spot before a lot of people see that the ice is open, or he can make a pass where some other guys may not think that way to make a pass in a particular situation.”
While the electric offense of Chartiers Valley has done its part, the defensive side is even more fearsome.
The Colts lead the PIHL in scoring defense at 1.23 goals per game. It surely helps that they have one of the best goaltenders in the league, but just as importantly, they also have a deep blue line.
“We have the deepest group of defensemen that we’ve seen,” Bonetti said. “A goalie can steal you a game occasionally, but having that defense in front of that goalie when you have a good goalie and strength on defense can win you a lot of games.”
Held is the lone representative from the defense corps to head to the all-star game, as the sophomore has provided some offense from the back end with six goals and 13 points.
“He’s definitely near the top of our group in terms of ability,” Bonetti said. “He runs our power play and he’s done a great job there. He’s pretty mature for his age.”
Serving as the last line of defense, Colberg has stood on his head this season for the Colts, putting up a 0.91 goals-against average that leads the PIHL. His four shutouts are tied for the most across the four classifications.
“He’s got a combination where he’s athletic and technically sound,” Bonetti said. “He’s extremely competitive. When he gives up a goal, he’s not mad at the rest of the team, he’s mad at himself. He feels like he should’ve made that save. When you have somebody that competitive at your most important position, that’s what you want.”
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