North Hills' rebuilt hockey program seeks consistency
It's not easy building a successful high school hockey program. Sustaining it can be a bigger challenge.
North Hills coach Brandon Dudt-Mulzet knows all about that.
He has helped build the Indians' program after it did not compete at the PIHL's varsity level in the 2010-11 season. North Hills regrouped, returned to the ice and made the Penguins Cup Class AA playoffs the past two seasons. Through their first 11 games, the Indians (4-7) were tied atop the Section 2 standings with eight points.
“We're starting to get into that stride where we can be consistent,” Dudt-Mulzet said. “If the goal is to be .500, I think we're on that pace. It's not often you can see an organization come back and make seasonal progression.”
North Hills lost its first 10 games of the 2011-12 season and finished with five wins. Last year, the Indians won eight games. With 11 PIHL contests remaining, the squad has an opportunity to pad that total
“Anytime the kids can see tangible proof that what you're saying is providing results and they are getting rewarded, that makes explaining things either,” Dudt-Mulzet said. “It's a matter of execution. If we have everybody involved and working hard, we'll win more than lose. If we come out flat, we'll lose more than we win. It's about attitude and effort now and not a matter of skill.”
The Indians lost to Plum in the last two postseasons. They hope to advance further this year.
“I think that's a huge next step. We haven't finished a season healthy the last two years,” Dudt-Mulzet said. “I hope we get to the postseason healthy this year and we can take it from there. That's what we'll concentrate on.”
Senior captain Brendan Shevchik, a defenseman, has been a key part of the program's rebuilding. He believes the program is ready to contend.
“The last couple seasons, we've struggled to be .500, but we have made steady progress. This year, everyone sees we really mean business and we're here to play. This year, we feel we have the best chance to go far. We have our hopes high,” he said. “It means a lot to our coach. He has dedicated so much time to this program. We really feel like we owe it to him to give everything we can this season.”
Junior forward Tyler Volz, an alternate captain, knows Class AA is difficult but is happy to see his team compete.
“It definitely has been a process since my freshman year. It definitely is not easy. I think a lot of credit should go to our coach, Brandon. He puts in a lot of work for us and he believes in us,” he said. “We have been taking strides each year. We're still working. I think this is a really competitive division. There really are no easy wins in this league. There's a lot of talent and competitive hockey.”
Injuries have hampered North Hills, especially at forward. The Indians have relied on players from their two junior varsity teams.
“We started out with 13 or 14 skaters. We're dipping down into our junior varsity roster heavily now,” Dudt-Mulzet said. “A lot of guys are getting in for their first and second varsity games. There will be a little bit of an adjustment there. Moving forward, that should start to improve steadily over the season.”
Freshmen John Seibert and Zach Reidell have joined sophomore J.D. Polaski and seniors Tiernan McGrath and Shevchik on the blue line.
“We have a very strong defensive corps,” said Volz, who is second on the team with 18 points. “Our goal was to try to get in double digits for wins. We have some work to do.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.