Plum ends regular season, turns attention to PIHL playoffs
After four months and 19 regular-season games, the Plum varsity ice hockey team can finally turn its attention to the PIHL Class AA playoffs, set to begin next week.
The Mustangs had a rough start to the season in terms of wins and losses, as they were 0-4-1 after five games.
But the team rebounded to go 8-6 over in its final 14 games, and that total included victories over Erie Cathedral Prep, which owns a first-round bye in the playoffs, and Hampton, which is fighting to earn one of the byes into the quarterfinals.
“We had to overcome some obstacles along the way,” Plum head coach Dave Stonebraker said.
“We lost some talented seniors from last year, and we lost another impact player who now is playing juniors. We lost yet another impact player in the middle part of the season. We don't look at it as obstacles that other teams don't have. It's just some of the things you have to handle as you grow as a team. This team has grown throughout the season, and we are looking forward to the playoffs.”
Plum will face North Hills in the first round.
The Mustangs will either be the No. 8 or No. 9 seed, with the Indians taking one of those two seeds.
Plum finished its regular-season schedule Monday with a 6-3 loss at home to Chartiers Valley.
The Mustangs currently are 8-10-1, and their 17 points puts them in the No. 8 slot.
North Hills, which lost to Pine-Richland, 7-1, on Monday, is 8-10-0 and in the No. 9 position with 16 points with one game left.
The Indians travel to Erie on Thursday to face Cathedral Prep, and North Hills needs to win to leapfrog Plum in the standings.
A tie does North Hills no good, as Plum owns the tiebreaker if the teams finish with the same amount of points. The Mustangs secured that tiebreaker with their 7-6 win over the Indians at the Penguins Pond on Jan. 10.
“We relish the opportunity to face North Hills again,” Stonebraker said.
“I'm sure they will come in with a little chip on their shoulders after getting beat on the Penguins Pond. We will watch their game with Cathedral Prep with great interest because we want that (playoff) game to be in our barn.”
The top six teams receive byes into the quarterfinals.
The No. 7 seed — Hampton or Moon — will take on No. 10 Gateway in the first round. After the two first-round games are completed, the remaining eight teams will be reseeded for the quarterfinals.
The semifinals and championship games again will be at the Consol Energy Center.
Chartiers Valley led Plum 1-0 after the first period on Monday, and the Colts were ahead 4-2 heading into the third period.
Anthony Franks scored four goals for Chartiers Valley, and he finished the regular season with 34 goals in 18 games.
Cullen McMahon tallied his 40th goal of the season for the Colts, who ended the regular season at 14-4-1.
Senior Todd Ruggiero, sophomore David Stonebraker and junior Joe Randazzo each scored a goal for Plum, which outshot Chartiers Valley, 34-33.
“I was pleased with a couple things in Monday's game against Chartiers Valley, even in a loss,” Stonebraker said.
“I was happy we were able to outshoot them. If you watched the first period, you saw that we had just as good of a chance of beating them as they did beating us. What we have struggled with all season long is a lack of depth, and Chartiers Valley was running three to four lines deep. We are struggling to compete with depth like that. However, I was proud of the way we played. We lost because of our own mistakes as opposed to just going out there and getting beat. We gave Franks just too many opportunities.”
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.