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The Shady Side Academy hockey team draws players from all over the world for the pre-school roster

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Saturday 22 January 2022 | 11:01 am


Ice hockey at Shady Side Academy is very different from what most scholastic sports fans are used to.

The school plays in the International Prep League, unlike the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League where most schools in Western Pennsylvania play.

It’s a unique arrangement, but one that fits well with Shady Side.

Jonathan Johnson, also the school’s assistant athletic director, coaches the boys’ prep team, a group of 20 to 28 athletes who play a prep school schedule.

“We’ll be in Chicago next weekend to play four other prep schools,” Johnson said. “Besides Chicago, we play against teams from Cleveland and Vermont.”

The Bulldogs not only have players from the Pittsburgh area, but also athletes from Texas, Florida, and even four Canadians.

“We also have a Chinese player,” Johnson said. “We attract top student athletes. What attracts them is the strong academics here at Shady Side Academy and we can get on the students on campus. There are dormitories for men and women. Development is central to this. We are working on it six days a week.”

A varsity team is one that plays a bit more of a local schedule. There is also a high school team and a girls prep team. One perk that Shady Side also has is an on-campus arena – the McKnight Center.

Said Johnson: “Sometimes a PIHL game is played at 9 p.m. on a weekday evening. That’s hard for us to have, so we went for this model, and it’s not to take away anything the PIHL does.”

The Bulldogs are 16-13 after 29 games of the nearly 40-game schedule.

One of the key players and captains of the prep squad this season is defender Cole Douglas, who hails from Gibsonia.

“Cole’s been here on Shady Side, starting with the high school team,” Johnson said. “He is definitely a leader of our team.”

Another key player is Moon Township striker Mathew McEnroe.

A player from Canada who is a household name among sports fans in the Pittsburgh area is Jack Lambert. Johnson said that when Lambert first arrived on campus, he had no idea who the famous football player of the same name was.

Johnson also credits the program’s success to assistant coach Stu Smith, who has been with the team for some 10 years.

Johnson himself was an incredibly talented player in his day. Johnson scored 122 goals for the Ford City High School hockey team in the 1989-90 season, a state record that still stands. He was featured that year in the “Faces in the Crowd” section of Sports Illustrated magazine.

Johnson went on to play junior hockey several years after graduating from Ford City.

On the weekend of January 28-29, Shady Side will host the Wyoming Seminary from the Wilkes-Barre area. The Friday game kicks off at the McKnight Center and kicks off at 7am. and the Saturday game at 11 o’clock

Tags: Shady Side Academy

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