Baldwin, Alaimo claim Open crown
As the hallway outside the Baldwin locker room echoed with cheers and music, head coach Jim Brown had a moment to reflect on what his team just accomplished in the PIHL Open Cup championship last week at the RMU Island Sports Center.
“I've been doing this a long time,” said Brown, referencing his extensive hockey resume, which includes a stint with USA Hockey.
“I've played and coached in big games like that, and for these kids it's a nice championship.”
Baldwin (22-1-1) soundly defeated Harbor Creek, 7-4, controlling the game's tempo practically from the opening face-off.
“We wanted to jump on top of them and fortunately that's what we were able to do,” Brown said.
Senior captain Anthony Alaimo did what he's done all season, and netted the game's opening goal less than a minute into the contest. He finished with two goals and an assist in his last game wearing a purple-and-white uniform.
“For my senior year, I couldn't wish for anything more,” Alaimo said.
Junior forward Brian Dee also recorded two goals and an assist, while goaltender Matt Yauch stood tall, denying nearly 20 Harbor Creek shots.
“Matt did a nice job,” Brown said. “We played disciplined, sound hockey.”
Brown and assistant coach Craig Albert watched from the doorway as the players took turns passing around the trophy while bottles of Welch's sparking grape juice and Gatorade were sprayed wildly.
“Hey,” Brown shouted into the mob of players. “Drink from it!”
As the players filled the silver bowl atop the wooden trophy, Brown and Albert smiled.
“It's a real, school hockey team.” Brown said. “I'm just real proud of the boys. They did a heck of a job.”
Fittingly enough, Alaimo was the first to drink from the PIHL chalice.
“It tastes a little more than Welch's grape juice,'' Alaimo said.
Baldwin finished the regular season atop the Section 4 standings with a record of 18-1-1 (37 points) before winning the Northeast Conference championship, 5-1, over Hempfield.
The Highlanders led the PIHL in scoring with 196 goals in 20 regular-season games, then outscored their four playoff opponents by a 39-10 margin.
Graduating only two seniors in Alaimo and defenseman Ryan Doran from this year's team, Baldwin is an early favorite heading into Brown's second year as head coach.
“It's great for the program,” Brown said. “I got a lot of talent.”
Harbor Creek ended its season with a 21-2 overall record.
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.