Armstrong hockey advances to Penguins Cup semifinals in 1st year
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Armstrong's players united for one goal: a state championship.
The Riverhawks hope to take another step toward it when they face Erie Cathedral Prep at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup semifinals at RMU Island Sports Center.
Already, Armstrong has taken a giant leap forward. Ahead of a consolidation of Ford City and Kittanning high schools starting in 2015-16, the hockey programs merged this season. The transition has been successful.
“It's honestly been really smooth throughout,” senior captain Hunter Grafton said. “We all played together before, so it wasn't a problem, and it's worked out well. Now in the playoffs, things are really coming together for us. The combination couldn't have been better.”
The Riverhawks are a blend of two good hockey teams. Last year, Ford City captured the PIHL Open Class championship, and Kittanning advanced to the PIHL Class A Penguins Cup semifinals. They've been able to come together to find success at the Class AA level this season, including beating defending state champ Latrobe, 7-3, in the first round.
“It's been awesome. It really has been. I couldn't ask for more of a brotherhood. We're always together and having fun when we're not playing,” junior alternate captain Christian Miller said. “I admit, at first, I was really worried. I didn't know what to think. We all realized this is what had to happen. We had a game plan, and we knew a state title would be our goal, so everybody has the same goal.
“We don't go to the same high school, but that doesn't mean that we're not texting or talking to each other or hanging out on the weekends. This group of guys is the closest I have been with. It's great.”
It's not like the players were strangers at the start of the year. A majority of Armstrong's team members grew up learning how to play hockey in the Armstrong Arrows youth program. Others continue to play together on travel teams.
“Basically, everybody knew each other on the team. There wasn't a problem with chemistry,” Grafton said. “It all started in the summer when we worked out twice a week. That's where we started making friends. We've had no problems at all. Everything fit in perfectly, and everyone has accepted their roles on the team.”
The Riverhawks (17-6-1) closed the regular season with four straight wins to finish with the third-most points (33) in Class AA, one behind Cathedral Prep (17-4-2). Grafton led the team with 41 assists and 62 points, which tied for third in the classification. Miller was right behind with 61 points, and his 46 goals led Class AA.
“Overall, it has been pretty easy. We've had a few bumps in the road along the way. We got things ironed out, and I think it showed against Latrobe,” Armstrong coach Doug Anthony said. “We jelled and played for each other.
“That was kind of missing the last month or so. I expect Tuesday's game to be a very good game.”
Bishop Canevin (21-2-0) meets Hampton (14-8-1) at 9 p.m. in the other Class AA semifinal.
NA knocked out
Defending Class AAA Penguins Cup and state champion North Allegheny fell to Penn-Trafford, 5-4, in overtime in a mild upset. The Tigers were the No. 4 seed, and the Warriors were seeded fifth.
Top-seeded Bethel Park (18-3-0) plays Pine-Richland (13-8-1) at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, and second-seeded Peters Township (17-4-0) meets Penn-Trafford (14-8-0) at 8:45 p.m.
Once again, Quaker Valley (22-1-0) advanced to the semifinals with an 8-1 triumph over South Fayette. The Quakers are the two-time defending Penguins Cup Class A champs. They are 68-2-1 in their last 71 games. They take on Freeport (15-5-2) at 6:45 p.m. Monday.
Mars (18-5-0) meets Thomas Jefferson (16-5-2) at 8:45 p.m. The Planets hope to reach the championship game for the seventh straight season. They won three consecutive titles (2009-11) before Quaker Valley's run.
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.
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.
- Sprint cancels Framily, rolls out new data pricing plan
- Rossi: Blount brings back Steelers’ swagger
- Steelers re-sign Keisel to bolster depth on defensive line
- Pleasant Hills OKs proposal for Weiss Meats warehouse
- Retired McKeesport police officer to pay fine for involvement in gambling ring
- Frances McClure Intermediate School starts foreign language academy program
- Former Elizabeth Forward custodian’s attorney denies allegations
- Run game not primary focal point for Steelers
- Steelers are hoping to mirror Eagles’ full-bore, no-huddle offense
- CF McCutchen returns to lineup, but Braves blast fast-fading Pirates
- Fugitive captured in Washington Township after eluding police overnight