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PIHL increases length of periods to maximize ice time

| Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
Freeport's Brendon Zack (18) fights for the puck with Kittanning's Jacob Snyder during an early-season game at the Belmont Complex in Kittanning. Erica Hilliard | Tribune-Review
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch Kittanning's #89 Donovan Wichowski shuts out Freeport's #06 Justin Drzemiecki during the hockey game at Belmont Complex in Kittanning on Thursday November 15, 2012.

With an eye on getting the most for its money, the PIHL decided it was time for a change and added six minutes to varsity games this season.

The league increased the length of each period from 15 to 17 minutes to better fill the block of ice time (1 hour and 50 minutes) purchased for each game, PIHL commissioner Ed Sam said.

“We were not utilizing all the ice we purchased,” Sam said. “We thought about it for a couple of years and determined we'd have time to increase the time of each period.”

The change has drawn mixed reactions.

While many agree it is prudent financially, some are concerned longer periods could make things more difficult for teams with little depth and prematurely end close games when the allotted ice time expires.

Others don't think the increase will have a significant impact, with the exceptions of providing more playing time and bringing the PIHL closer to the 20-minute periods of the NHL and NCAA.

“It might affect teams that are short-benched more than teams that have fairly strong rosters,” Freeport coach Dave Hepler said. “Still, if you only have 12 players, but you have 12 good players, it doesn't matter. If you don't have a quality bench, then you're in trouble.”

With 18 skaters and three goaltenders, Class A Freeport can afford to get tired players off the ice and replace them with fresh legs. In the past, however, the Yellowjackets have had seasons with low turnouts, and those small teams might have been negatively affected by a six-minute increase, Hepler said.

Money-wise, the move appears to make sense, Hepler added. If a game finishes before the allotted ice time expires, the league still pays for the whole slot.

“You could be throwing 15 minutes of ice time in dollars out the window,” Hepler said.

Regardless of time slots, tie games are played until a winner is determined or until overtime completed.

Ford City coach Glen Kilgore, whose team competes in the Open Class, admits he would have voted against the measure, if given that option.

“You're definitely getting closer to curfew on some games,” Kilgore said. “But if you get a curfew in a tight game, that's the stupidest thing that can happen. If someone gets hurt, there's a long delay to help him and the game is running late, the game could be curfewed in the third period. The players and coaches feel left out of the process if that happens.”

Kilgore said, when the PIHL had 15-minute periods, his team never had a contest cut short because ice time ran out.

Dave Stonebreaker, coach of Class AA Plum, thinks the increase shouldn't cause most teams to run out of gas late in the game.

“Hockey players, in general, are in shape to begin with,” Stonebreaker said. “Most programs have dry-land conditioning, so they've addressed those areas.”

Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-224-2696.

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