Shady Side Academy Hockey Team Draws Players From All Over For Prep School Schedule


Saturday January 22, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.

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

The school plays in the International Prep League, as opposed to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League in which most schools in western Pennsylvania play.

It’s a unique arrangement, but one that suits Shady Side perfectly.

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

“We’ll be in Chicago next weekend playing four more prep schools,” Johnson said. “In addition to Chicago, we will face teams from Cleveland and Vermont.”

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

“We also have a Chinese player,” Johnson said. “We attract the best student-athletes. What attracts them are the strong academics here at Shady Side Academy and we can get students on campus. There are male and female dorms. Development is a key here. We work on it six days a week.”

A college team is a team that plays a bit more on a local schedule. There is also a college team and a girls prep team. A benefit of Shady Side is also an on-campus arena – the McKnight Center.

Said Johnson: “Sometimes a PIHL game will be played at 9 p.m. on a weeknight. It’s hard for us to have, so we went with this model, and it’s not to take anything away from the PIHL.

The Bulldogs are 16-13 after 29 games on a nearly 40-game schedule.

One of the main players and captains of the preparation team this season is defender Cole Douglas, originally from Gibsonia.

“Cole has been here on Shady Side starting with the college team,” Johnson said. “He is definitely a leader of our team.”

Another key player is Moon Township forward Mathew McEnroe.

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

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

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

Johnson continued to play junior hockey for several years after graduating from Ford City.

The weekend of January 28-29, Shady Side will host the Wilkes-Barre area Wyoming Seminary. Friday’s game begins at the McKnight Center at 7 a.m. and the Saturday game at 11 a.m.

Tags: Shady Side Academy

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