Plum trio fares well at hockey showcase
When the renowned Hockey Night in Boston Tournament got underway earlier this month, Team Pittsburgh featured a few familiar faces for Plum hockey fans.
Forwards Anthony Borriello and Nolan Puhala, along with defenseman Ryan Loebig were all selected to play for the team competing in the 34th annual sophomore tournament, helping lead the squad to a 3-2-1 record from July 13-17 at the Haverhill Valley Forum.
Hockey Night in Boston is considered by numerous college scouts as the country's biggest stage for scouting underclassmen. While the stands were packed with scouts, the players tried to block the external pressures out of their minds.
“It was really cool being able to be up there and playing against people from all different parts of the country, or at least the eastern side of it…it kind of excites you a little bit to think who all might be watching your games,” Loebig said.
“Once you get up there and start playing, you get the feel for it and start to play better,” added Puhala.
The team of rising 10th graders (and younger), composed of players from across the Pittsburgh area, was selected through a tryout process in May.
Despite having an unofficial team skate, the squad never had an official team practice prior to the tournament, forcing the players to build chemistry during competition.
“The first game is always the toughest when you're still trying to get to know kids because you haven't really been with them at all other than seeing them at the tryout. The best way to do it is just to talk as much as you can, be very vocal,” Borriello said.
The three Plum varsity players helped Team Pittsburgh to a second place finish in the Blue Division, earning seven points and finishing just one point away from a berth in the semifinals before dropping its consolation game.
Along the way, Team Pittsburgh tallied victories against Team New Jersey (8-2), Team Mid-Atlantic (8-4) and Team Midwest (5-2).
Additionally, all three Plum players were named to the showcase all-star team, as Puhala netted six goals while Borriello added three.
For Borriello, being named to the list came as a big accomplishment after competing in the tournament last year and missing the cut.
“When it came out and we all made it, it really was just a good feeling to finally hit that mile marker and be able to go and play with people just as good as you or even better and see what you can do against them,” he said.
The team proved that despite not winning its division, players from the Pittsburgh region can compete with the best the country has to offer.
“Pittsburgh's growing overall, I believe, in skill level, and just showing them the type of talent that's coming out of here shows that we can compete with kids everywhere,” Borriello said.
“It was really cool to be able to do that, just to be able to represent well,” added Loebig.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.