North Allegheny hockey starts season off strong
Forgoing tradition, the North Allegheny hockey team did not name captains this season. No Tigers player is wearing the “C” or “A” on his jersey.
But it's not because the team doesn't have leaders. Quite the contrary, coach Jim Black said. He thinks the Tigers have too many captain-capable players.
“There's probably six or seven of those kids who could be captains or assistant captains,” Black said.
During the preseason, Black said senior Joe Griffin — a prime candidate to be captain — told the team he didn't believe anyone needed a letter on his jersey to exhibit leadership.
“We're all one team,” Griffin said. “Seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen ... we see each other as equals.”
Griffin has a team-high eight goals. He, fellow senior Connor Cash and sophomore Dom Zangaro have combined for six goals and 13 assists in what has been a productive line.
Seniors Cody Black, Matt Fantaski and Charlie Johnson form another line that has been productive, totaling 10 goals and 15 assists. Cody Black , Jim's son, leads the Tigers with 10 points.
“I would say that those two lines are 1A and 1B,” Jim Black said. “I can consider either one the top line any night.”
Defensive-minded senior Justin Leonard centers a third line that includes junior Marty Hubert and freshman Wyatt Glover.
Seniors Ryan Spengler and Chris Como skate on another line, typically with Griffin or Cody Black or Cash double-shifting.
Injuries have affected the defense, as three of the top six defensemen — senior Harry Kramer, sophomore Danny Bostedo and junior Shawn Baird — have been out. Without those three, Jim Black said sophomore Will Rahenkamp has established himself as an emerging defenseman. Freshman Christian Louria and senior Shane Snyder also have seen more ice time than anticipated.
“I think once we get everyone back, depth is not going to be a problem,” Griffin said. “We have a solid four lines and a lot of solid defensemen. We have enough players that we'll be in every game in the long run.”
The Tigers entered the season with uncertainty at goalie, but Bradford Thornburgh seized the opportunity. Thornburgh, who also plays for the amateur North Pittsburgh Wildcats U16 AA team, has a 1.20 goals-against average and .942 save percentage with two shutouts in five this season.
“He has very good rebound control and does a nice job of making the first save typically,” Black said. “And he's getting better at playing the puck.”
North Allegheny was perfect for the autumn until losing to Canon-McMillan last week. The Tigers won all six games they played at the preseason St. Margaret tournament in October, beating powers from all three PIHL classifications (including Canon-McMillan).
North Allegheny then began the regular season with six consecutive victories.
Griffin said he and the other seniors recognize that their season will be judged on whether they can put together a winning streak in March more than for what they did in October or November.
“At least for me,” he said, “knowing the past three years we made it to the playoffs and kind of fell short and seeing how it affected the seniors, I think we all know that a lot of us will be playing our last games this year, so we just want to go out with our best shot and leave it all on the ice.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.