Monday, March 10, 2014

Peters Township hockey prepares for PHIL semifinals

Peters Township defenseman Josef Kittelberger
Peters Township’s hockey team has not slowed down since the start of the season. The Indians (17-4) entered the Class AAA PIHL Penguins Cup Playoffs as the No. 2 seed behind Bethel Park and with a 4-1 victory over Seneca Valley last week, are preparing for the semifinals.

Peters Township will face a familiar opponent – Penn Trafford (14-8), who the Indians lost to in the regular season finale, 6-5. The loss did not come without a lack of effort. Peters Township recorded 40 shots on goal, but two goals allowed in a little over a minute during the third period led to the defeat.

It is the Warriors’ second Penguins Cup semifinal appearance in the last three years and it is no surprise. Penn Trafford defenseman Jacob Miller has been unstoppable this season with 23 goals and 31 assists during the regular season. Miller has four goals in the Warriors’ two playoff games.

“They definitely have guys who can score,” Peters Township head coach Rick Tingle said. “They quietly have become a good program. They are beating some quality teams. They beat a strong North Allegheny team and they pulled that out against the defending state champions. They definitely aren’t a team to sneeze at.”

The Indians returned the vast majority of a roster that lost in the Penguins Cup semifinals last season, including leading scorer Adam Alavi. Alavi scored two goals in the Indians’ victory over Seneca Valley. He has 20 goals and 16 assists in 18 games played this season.

Assisting Alavi in the scoring column have been Evan Opeka, who had three assists against Seneca Valley, and Jonathan Dagnal, who joined the team in late November. While the Indians have their fair share of offensive talent, Tingle believes their depth has separated them from other Class AAA teams.

Peters Township fields a second varsity squad in PIHL’s open class, uses three goaltenders and also has two freshmen teams to generate talent. The result has been a plethora of extra bodies that have contributed quality minutes.

The extra players with big game experience will help in the Indians’ quest for their first Penguins
Cup since 2005 and the program’s first since moving to Class AAA.

“I think our strength is our balance,” Tingle said. “We try to take care of our own end and we have some offensive punch. That’s where we have been the last several years. We use everyone on the team and we do that on a regular basis. We use all four lines, we have three goaltenders and that has truly helped us out.”

Tingle, who has been the head coach at Peters Township for eight years, has witnessed the steady growth of the high school hockey game. While Tingle still sees room for improvement, he believes the increasing youth hockey numbers, stemming from Sidney Crosby’s arrival in Pittsburgh and the Penguins’ Stanley Cup in 2009, will be a critical boost. His biggest concern is the increasing amount of teams in the PIHL’s Open Class, which are not eligible to compete for the Penguins Cup.

“It’s great and is going to get bigger,” Tingle said. “I think it has taken another step. There are too many teams in the open division that are legitimate high school teams. We need to make sure that we are getting everyone evolved in Penguin Cup hockey. I would like to see that happen. I would like to see more teams be there in the three classifications. Another wave of young hockey players are coming up in Western Pennsylvania and we have to be ready for it and be able to handle it the right way.”

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