Pair of Peters Township hockey teams finding early success
There's no such thing as having too much depth.
The Peters Township hockey team — a PIHL Penguins Cup finalist the past three seasons — is off to a strong start this season thanks to a deep and talented group of players.
“We have a lot of depth,” coach Rick Tingle said. “We had a lot of freshmen and sophomores last year.
“This year, they're a year older, a year stronger and hopefully a year smarter.”
The impetus for the team's early success has been its trio of talented goaltenders.
Seniors Brian Baker and Jesse Borne, along with sophomore Tony Lejeune, have been stout in net thus far this season.
Lejeune turned away 37 of 39 shots in Peters Township's 4-2 triumph over section-rival Bethel Park earlier this month.
Though Baker and Borne are the more experienced players between the pipes, Tingle is going to give Lejeune some opportunities to play this season as well.
“He made the team,” Tingle said of his sophomore netminder. “He deserves to play.”
The Indians (5-1) have all six of their defensemen back from last year's team. The blue-liners are led by team captain Josef Kittelberger, who scored the game-winning goal and added an assist in the Bethel Park game.
Up front, Peters Township is paced by Adam Alavi. He's been the team's leading point-getter in the early going.
Alavi was a fixture on the Indians' top line last season, so he's no stranger to finding his name on the score sheet.
“I expect Adam to be out in front (in scoring),” Tingle said. “The first line scored 80 percent of our goals last year.
“Most of our forwards are back, so I expect to get scoring from the other lines, too.”
The Indians have been able to maintain their high level of play despite injuries to forwards Samuel Barnes and Giovanni Carbonara.
“We've been hampered a little bit by injuries,” Tingle said. “There are still a lot of things to sort out.”
Among front-line players who have stepped up in the early going are Evan Opeka, Brady Cochrane, Matt Amelio and Jacob Dachille.
The depth of talent in the Peters Township program has allowed for the formation of a second varsity squad that is competing in the Open Division.
Led by coach Doug Hamilton, the Peters Township Open team (4-1) — which replaced the junior varsity squad — has also been performing well this season.
The Open Indians began the season with a 3-2 loss to Section 1 leader Morgantown, then won its next three contests by a combined score of 19-5.
“They're doing well,” Tingle said. “We have a lot of good players who are capable of playing varsity hockey.”
Forward Tristan Wagner is pacing the team in scoring so far this season, and goalie Caden Shell has been a stalwart in net.
From the two varsity teams on down, the coaches in the Peters Township hockey program emphasize the same things with their players.
“We have to emphasize the little things so they become habits,” Tingle said. “It starts at the middle-school level.
“If they know what to expect, it makes things a lot easier.”
Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.