Kittanning among several hockey teams with Class A title hopes
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The members of Kittanning's hockey team have noticed that the list of potential PIHL Class A title contenders is more crowded than usual this season.
The Wildcats, semifinalists the past three winters, aren't alarmed. If anything, they're intrigued.
A two-week holiday break, which begins Friday and continues through Jan. 1, will allow Kittanning (5-2-1) to rest and prepare for what might become a grueling buildup to the postseason.
“One of the kids I was talking to before practice pointed out that you can't get a read at all in Class A by looking at scores every night,” coach Jamie King said. “I said, ‘That's why you play every night, and that's why you worry about yourself.' ”
The jewel of Kittanning's first two months is a 5-3 road win over Mars (7-2-1), a PIHL finalist a year ago and arguably Class A's No. 2 program this winter behind unbeaten Quaker Valley (10-0), the defending champ.
Behind Mars sits a glut of promising programs. Aside from Kittanning, the cast includes Freeport (7-1-1), Serra Catholic (6-3), Thomas Jefferson (6-4), and Westmont Hilltop (6-3-1).
“It's exciting,” King said. “Quaker Valley is obviously the top team, but it's so wide open right now.”
Rematches with Freeport, Serra Catholic and Thomas Jefferson might shed more light on where the Wildcats stand in Class A. Kittanning tied Freeport, 1-1, on Nov. 15, and, without starting goaltender Cameron Langham, it lost to Thomas Jefferson and Serra Catholic by one goal each: 7-6 and 5-4, respectively.
What led to Kittanning's setbacks were lapses in intensity, King explained. Thomas Jefferson scored five of its seven goals during a sloppy Kittanning first period. Serra Catholic scored four of its five during a seven-minute span in the second period.
“I think we definitely learned that you have to come out ready to play every game,” said forward Christian Miller, who has a team-high 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists). “I think (the parity) is nerve-racking because we want to be the best, and we have to show up every night.”
King expects to see few if any lapses going forward.
“Sometimes, when you're way ahead in games, the mistakes, they make it 10-1 and not 10-0,” he said. “But when it's a close game and they do hurt you, I think it does carry more weight. When you show it on film, it carries more weight.”
With games against Thomas Jefferson (Jan. 2) and Westmont Hilltop (Jan. 3) scheduled just after the holidays, Kittanning can significantly shuffle the standings before its players break their New Year's resolutions.
The key, Kittanning players and King agree, is further dedication to responsible defense. With 25 goals allowed in eight games, the Wildcats surrender 3.1 per contest. They aim to reduce that figure as their young defense matures.
“Almost all of our defensemen are freshmen, and in that (preseason) tournament, it was so-so,” Langham said. “It's the back-checking, it's the rebounds, it's covering the guy backdoor — everything is better now.”
The forwards' adherence to a more dump-and-chase approach to offense will help, too.
“I think our forecheck needs some work out there,” Miller said. “But it'll come with more practice. We definitely need to work on dumping it in more instead of trying to go through too many guys.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.