Kneeling (L-R) Dave Wagner, Mike Ziemianski, Paul Toth, John Greiner, John Konfala, Joe Stegmeyer, George Fedeanis, Tom Kendall.
Standing (L-R) Dennis Harold, Pat Felton, Lou Nicolai, Frank Kubus, Kevin Kelly, John Nelson, Doug Seib, John Trovato, Matt Bukovan, Fr. Herman Ubinger O.S.B., Coach Bob Farrell.
1979 – 1980
Post Mortem to a Winning Season
Records for the 1979 – 1980 season are only partially available as of the original date of the publication of the SVC Hockey web page. Attempts are currently being made to reconstruct the season from articles and the memory of the players. As the web page is visited by former team members who participated during the last three seasons of the team, before its rebirth in 1999 – 2000, we hope to collect additional photos and stories to finish a more complete history during the first run of ice hockey at the college. Should you happen to be one of those players, please contact Mike Ziemianski. He will assemble the material and publish as complete a story as may be available.
What does exist for the 1979 – 1980 campaign represents a story that closely mirrors the ebb and flow that occurred in 1977-1978 after an outstanding 1976 – 1977 season. After winning the divisional title and losing a heartbreaking 5-3 decision in the final game of the previous year, the hockey team was severely hurt by the graduation of the class of 1979 and the failure of two Freshman defenseman to return to the college.
Even still, a large group of new players comprised of freshman and transfers laid the foundation for what was hoped to be a solid year. 20 goal scorer Lou Nicolai, a league star, gained support at center from a tall playmaking center from New Jersey by the name of John Nelson. Doug Seib had substantially improved his game and was ready for a larger role as a senior. John Trovato a double digit goal scorer from 1978 – 1979 would provide both scoring touch and upperclassman leadership. Pat Felton was more than ready to prove his talented showing in his first year was no illusion. Dave Wagner, only a Junior had become recognized as one of the key blue liner’s in the SVC arsenal. Finally Roger Kenney from Mt. Lebanon, Paul Toth from North Hills High School in Philadelphia, Matt Bukovan from Pittsburgh North Catholic, Gary Rischitelli from Ringold, and Tom Kendall from Trinity High School in Harrisburg seemed to be a group of promising Freshman. John Konfala, entering his 3’rd season in the nets had obtained support from a Naval Academy transfer and Greensburg native, John Greiner. The team filled the rest of its roles with Kevin Kelly from Niagra Falls, N.Y., George Fedeanis from Seneca Valley, Brain Radocaj from North Catholic, Joe Stegmeyer from Greensburg Central Catholic, and Frank Kubus of South Hills Catholic.
The team’s first summary of the season was penned in the following article in the St. Vincent Review:
“Polar Bearcat Mania”
Dave Rusnock and Larry “Peach” Petro
The Polar Bearcats defeated Wheeling College by the score of 4-3 Saturday night after dropping their home opener with Penn State McKeesport.
Having to contend with bad ice conditions and a few injuries, the Bearcats pulled away from Wheeling late in the third period. With the two teams exchanging the lead throughout the game, Lou Nicolai pushed in the final goal to capture the win.
Fine performances were given by Pat Felton with two goals and one assist, Lou Nicolai with two goals and two assists, and John Trovato with two assists. It is no coincidence that these three are the captains of the Bearcats. A fine performance was also given by junior John A. Konfala, goalie, who robbed Wheeling College of a multitude of scoring chances. Sophomore goalie John Greiner also did a fine job of replacing injured goalie Wes Goldberg late in the second period and playing his usually fine third period.
With a tough win under their belts, the Polar Bearcats are ready to skate rings around Point Park College this Sunday night. Buses will be provided and the game will get underway at 9:00 p.m. So come out and cheer on your Polar Bearcats.”
What remains as the history of the rest of the season is essentially pulled from memory. Bob Farrell maintained his role as head coach, but was joined by former player Mike Ziemianski who became his assistant. As the season wore on, injuries, illness and lack of depth forced the Z-Man to suit up and actually skate in several contests. Doug Seib maintained his unusual dominance over Slippery Rock in another multiple goal game against The Rock and the memory of some tough losses where the team was bolstered by heroic goaltending efforts comes to mind. Nicolai could still dominate a game, Felton was emerging as a star, Toth proved to be an extremely effective winger and John Nelson was ready to move into a position of dominance. The defense with Bukovan and Kendall looked strong but an injury to Rischitelli forced Dave Wagner to carry a heavy workload. Few games were won the rest of the year, but as always, the foundation was laid for an outstanding 1980 – 1981 year.