Corey Schafer’s flight was scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh sometime Friday night, probably during the second period of the Johnstown Tomahawks home game against Port Huron.
The Westmont Hilltop product created a local buzz when Tomahawks General Manager Rick Boyd traded for Schafer on Thursday. The move, which sent former Johnstown defenseman Kristaps Bazevics to the Wichita Falls Wildcats, was announced before Friday’s NAHL game at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
“I coached Corey for four years in Triple-A hockey and I spent those four years trying to promote him and our other players to this league,” said Boyd, who worked with Schafer in the Amateur Penguins organization. “Knowing that he’s in this league now and we had an opportunity to get him would make me a hypocrite if I didn’t believe in him enough to bring him back home to play in front of his hometown fans.”
Schafer had three assists in 19 games with the Wildcats this season. The 18-year-old forward previously played in the American West Hockey League after starring at Westmont Hilltop High School for three seasons.
“Corey won the Westmont hockey most valuable player award as a freshman, sophomore and junior,” veteran Hilltoppers coach Art McQuillan said. “His senior year, he left to play in the America West Hockey League. He’s a gritty player that plays at both ends of the ice.”
Schafer is expected to join the team today but Boyd said it will be a game-time decision on whether he’s ready to be in the lineup for tonight’s home game against Port Huron or Sunday afternoon’s contest against visiting Soo.
“It’s a pretty cool experience that Cody is going through,” Boyd said of his son, Tomahawks forward Cody Boyd, a Richland High product who played last season with Bismarck (N.D.) in the NAHL before joining the inaugural Tomahawks team. “Corey deserves that same opportunity, but honestly, we talked about it earlier that it was important that both Corey and Cody establish themselves in this league before we bring them back.
“We don’t want anybody to get the perception that the only reason they’re here is because they’re from here. It was important to me that they establish themselves in this league, create an identity for themselves in this league and then we’d do everything we can to bring them here to play.”
Schafer certainly made an impact locally.
“During Corey’s junior year, he lost the PIHL Single-A scoring championship by one point to Elliot Tisdale, who is playing up in Jamestown (in the NAHL),” McQuillan said. “Corey had five points on the last night of the season and Tisdale had six points that night.”
Schafer finished with 36 goals and 67 points in 19 PIHL games, while Tisdale had 33 goals and 68 points in 20 games.
Mars eliminated Westmont in the Penguin Cup playoffs that 2010-11 season too.
“I coached him for four years in the Amateur Penguins down in Pittsburgh,” Boyd said. “He’s always a guy that will go full-speed. He’s a hard worker. He’s going to challenge everybody in our lineup for their position and I think you’ll see him in the lineup soon.”