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Elite hockey team forming in W.Pa.

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 9:05 p.m.

Baldwin coach Jim Brown has established the U-19 Pittsburgh Prospects, a team designed to show off some of the top hockey talent that Western Pennsylvania has to offer and give local players the chance to advance to the next level of the sport.

Tryouts are set to for April 21 in Ice Castle Arena in Castle Shannon.

The Prospects will compete in four showcase tournaments during a two-month stretch this summer in front of as many as 120 college and junior scouts.

“The premise of our organization is to find and get the 20 best kids we possibly can,” said Brown, adding that he hopes the exposure will help his players move on to new opportunitiesonce the summer mini-season concludes.

“The goal is kind of two-fold: to help kids continually develop their hockey talents and do that in game scenarios, and to get exposure,” said goalie coach and associate head coach Tim Heneroty, a former netminder with the Pittsburgh Hornets and at Northeastern University from 2002-06.

Sixty players are expected at tryouts, and Brown and his staff will select 20 players once practices begin on April 29. The team's first tournament is scheduled for May 15.

The members of the team will work with certified trainers for on and off-ice training as well as listen to guest speakers explain what to expect at the higher levels of the sport.

“We're going to have a very diverse program, different and more integrative than anybody does in Pittsburgh, and that's not to slight anybody. … Our mission is to showcase Pittsburgh and the player,” Brown said.

The Prospects will compete against elite teams acoss the country. The team will travel to Minnesota for the AAA Independent Classic and the USA International Hockey Cup, to Foxboro, Mass., for the Blue Chips Select College Showcase, and to Exeter, N.H., for the Alliance Showcase.

There is no shortage of talent in the region for Brown and his staff to choose from, as there are several Tier 1 AAA level teams in the Pittsburgh area, including the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, Esmark Stars and Pittsburgh Predators.

“I want the best player, No. 1,” said Brown, who led Baldwin to a PIHL Open Division championship this season. “I want also the academic elite athlete. I want kids that I can sell to D-I and D-III NCAA programs and Junior A North American League and USHL guys that have the grades to also play on this team.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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