Westmoreland Pee Wee hockey coach knows importance of playing a role
Jake Andolina, a 20-year Pennsylvania State Trooper, works to make sure the residents of the Keystone State are protected and safe.
He also has made his mark as an actor in recent years, landing roles in movies with stars such as Hillary Swank, Russell Crowe, Katherine Heigl and Denzel Washington.
Andolina knows that the actors and actresses in a movie, no matter how big or small the part, have important roles to play, and each has to perform that role to the best of his ability if the production is to be successful.
That is the same focus he tries to impart to his hockey players as the head coach of the Westmoreland Pee Wee A Major Black team.
The team members are taking that team concept, accepting their roles and translating them into a strong season, both in and out of the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League.
“We're playing great hockey, and the team has really jelled,” Andolina said.
Six players from last year's Pee Wee A Major Black squad returned to the team this season and meshed with players who moved up from other Pee Wee teams in the organization and a few players from outside the organization.
The team returned to PAHL competition the weekend of Dec. 1 and scored a 5-2 win over North Pittsburgh and a 7-2 victory over South Hills.
Westmoreland improved its record to 7-2 through nine games and is among the division leaders.
“Every team in the division is playing pretty competitively,” Andolina said. “We lost both our games by only one goal, and we rebounded nicely from both. That's a mark of a good team that it can do that.”
One of the losses was a 4-3 setback to Butler Valley on Nov. 17. That Butler Valley squad was 6-0 after the games of Dec. 1 and 2.
Andolina said his team is looking forward to a rematch on Jan. 6 at Kirk S. Nevin Arena in Greensburg.
“The kids have some good wins and are a confident bunch,” Andolina said.
“All the lines are clicking. We have some guys who are really burying the puck, and the defense and goaltender, Gage Handwork, are looking strong and really coming together.”
Westmoreland captured second at the Pittsburgh Thanksgiving Classic at BladeRunners in Bethel Park over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The team went 2-1 in preliminary-round games against a trio of Canadian teams.
The Eagles scored a one-goal win over a New Jersey team in the semifinals, but they suffered a loss in the finals to the Glanbrook Rangers from Canada.
Glanbrook also was the team that got the best of Westmoreland in the preliminary round.
“Our regular season carried over into the tournament,” Andolina said. “We got the silver instead of the gold, but they got medals and a nice plaque.”
Andolina said the team will play in a tournament in Johnstown on Presidents' Day weekend in February and will host a tournament in March.
Garison Andolina and Jared Gerger are the co-captains, while Lucas Bates, Bryce Hegedus, Zach Kubitz and Brantley Miller are assistant captains.
Gerger led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 13 assists after the games of Dec. 1 and 2.
Hegedus was second with 10 goals and seven assists, while Derrick Halula, on the same line with Gerger and Hegedus, is the third-leading scorer with six goals and three assists.
Miller (five goals and one assist), Andolina (one goal, seven assists), Noah Mazur (seven assists) and Logan Kaczynski (one goal, five assists) also have contributed on offense.
“We made some adjustments to start the season and got the lines together,” Andolina said. “We met the challenges and are now playing great.”
Michael Love is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.