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New name, same lofty goals for Steel City Ice Renegades

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Head coach Rusty Hodge of the Steel City Ice Renegades Midget 18U team directs his players during a practice September 26, 2012, at BladeRunners in Harmarville. Dean M. Beattie | For Trib Total Media

In the offseason, the Amateur Penguins and Junior Penguins organizations rebranded themselves.

The offshoot of the Am Pens Tier I and Tier II squads — the Steel City Ice Renegades — is ready to do battle in 2012-13.

The Midget 18U AA squad is no exception, as head coach Rusty Hodge is excited to see what his 16 players can accomplish in games both in and out of the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League.

“So far, everything is going well,” Hodge said. “They have to come together and play as a team, as any successful team does. You have to have that team approach.

“You go back a couple years ago, and the New York Rangers had the most talent you could possibly get, but they did poorly. Talent is not everything. The ability to get the players to come together and feed off each other is the key.”

The Renegades 18U AA players formed their foundation for this season through open tryouts over the summer.

The team is a mixture of players from the Junior Pens 16U AA team, the Amateur Pens Midget A Major Black squad and other youth organizations in the Pittsburgh region.

“At this age level, you sometimes develop cliques where one group will hang out together and another four or five guys will hang out,” Hodge said.

“Hopefully, that all goes away after the first tournament. You go away for two or three days, and they are together and away from mom and dad and their comfort zone. They seem to grow up a little bit and bond with all the others.”

The Renegades were scheduled to begin their 20-game PAHL slate last weekend with a pair of contests.

In addition to the PAHL schedule, they will play in a junior prospects league and travel to games throughout the Midwest.

Those teams also will come to Pittsburgh, and local fans will be able to see a number of top youth hockey matchups.

“How competitive we will be outside the PAHL, I don't know,” Hodge said. “There are some very strong teams in Detroit, Chicago and Minnesota.”

Hodge said the team's strength will be its overall speed. How the players can incorporate that speed into the rest of the game, he said, will be key to how successful they can be.

“They just have to get the plays running smoothly and get disciplined when they are on the power play or the penalty kill or they are on a breakout or they are back-checking,” he said.

“You have to play the scheme the coach wants you to play. It's early, and we're working to develop a system that fits the speed and their talents.”

Hodge said his players are glad to finally be playing games and in the mode to pick up wins towards the playoffs in February and March.

“They will be competitive,” Hodge said. “They are a good bunch of kids, and they are excited to be playing.”

Michael Love is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or mlove@tribweb.com.

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