UPG hockey team wins CHE tournament title, heads to nationals
As the No. 1 seed, the Pitt-Greensburg hockey team went into the College Hockey East tournament with a target on its back.
But after beating Carnegie Mellon and CCAC on consecutive nights, the Bobcats came out of the CHE tournament the same way they entered it — on top of the heap.
Pitt-Greensburg notched an 11-5 victory over CCAC late last month in the CHE championship game and will compete in the Collegiate Ice Hockey Association's national playoffs March 13-15 in Newark, Ohio.
The Bobcats will take on Medaille College from Buffalo, N.Y., in the first round of the CIHA tournament on Thursday. Game time is 2:10 p.m.
Pitt-Greensburg entered this week No. 6 in the nation in the CIHA according to MyHockeyRankings.com. Medaille is the No. 10 team in the nation, according to the website. MyHockeyRankings.com bases its team ratings on a formula that includes points, goal differential and strength of schedule.
Bobcats coach Tim Baldwin expected the CHE title to boost his team's standing in the top 10 heading into the CIHA tournament, but the updated rankings were not available at press time.
No matter their ranking, Baldwin and his players have already begun preparing for their shot at the national championship.
“We're already working toward the best possible outcome,” Baldwin said. “The guys are excited, but they know what needs to be done.
“We want to walk out of there with the national title.”
The Bobcats own a 21-6 record and have been lighting up the scoreboard all season. In addition to pouring in 11 goals against CCAC in the CHE title game, they nearly netted double figures in their opening game, a 9-7 win against Carnegie Mellon.
Despite the team's offensive prowess, it may have been Pitt-Greensburg's defensive work that clinched the CHE championship during the third period of the CCAC matchup.
The Bobcats killed off a 5-on-3 CCAC power play midway through the third period that energized the bench and propelled the team to victory. Even their coach was swept up in the excitement as the seconds ticked off the short-handed situation.
“The guys stayed together and did what they needed to do,” Baldwin said. “They came out of that penalty kill and played at another level.
“After that, I can't even tell you what happened. The guys drove to the net and played aggressive.”
The Pitt-Greensburg offense was paced by a seven-point night from Nico Vecchio. In addition to netting a hat trick against CCAC, Vecchio also dished out four assists.
Dan Merz scored a pair of goals for the Bobcats and notched three assists. Ryan Joyce also scored twice and had an assist to his credit in the game.
Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.