PIHL finalists extend season at nationals
Just days after winning the Class AAA Pennsylvania Cup, the Peters Township hockey team is hitting the road.
Along with Bethel Park — which lost to the Indians in the Penguins Cup on March 17 — the newly crowned state champions will be traveling to Omaha, Neb., for the USA Hockey National Championships. The round-robin tournament begins Wednesday morning, with the top eight teams advancing to a single-elimination tournament Saturday and the championship game Sunday.
Because of conflicting dates with the Penguins Cup and Pennsylvania Cup finals, the PIHL was last represented in the tournament by Shaler in 2010. After gauging interest from the teams in the league, the PIHL elected to send the finalists from Class AAA when the dates for this year's tournament were set.
Despite the recent history between the teams, Bethel Park coach Jim McVay and Peters Township coach Rick Tingle remain friends, and the teams will be spending some time together off the ice in Omaha.
“A lot of the kids know each other, and to be honest, it's going to be easy for his guys to do something with us,” McVay said. “It could be hard for our guys, because they just beat us.
“But you know what? That's life.”
While Peters Township is excited for the opportunity to attend the national championship, it won't be approached with the same attitude that recent championships have been.
“More than anything else at this point, it's just cool to go to,” Tingle said. “This isn't really on the radar as much as the Penguins Cup and state championship is. As far as I'm concerned, we reached the pinnacle (Saturday at the state championship).”
The Indians will be without forwards Adam Alavi, Jonathan Dagnal and Josef Kittelberger, and starting goalie Brian Baker at different points of the tournament because of club team commitments.
“It really kind of changes our mentality,” Tingle said. “It gives some of the younger guys a chance to play and see what we have next year.”
Both teams will have to fight their way out of tough groups if they hope to advance to the playoff round. While Bethel Park would love to get back to winning after a tough ending to its PIHL season, McVay recognizes the same opportunity that Tingle sees in the national tournament.
“It's sort of a Catch-22, because you want to be able to give everyone a chance to play,” McVay said. “It's not every day you get a chance to play at the national championships in Omaha.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.