Two varsity teams to bolster Canon-McMillan hockey program
TribLIVE Sports Videos
It was an unprecedented solution to a problem an increasing number of local high school hockey programs are encountering.
The kind of problem the PIHL can only hope every school has someday.
Facing an abundance of players and not enough roster spots or ice time for all of them, the Canon-McMillan hockey association added a second varsity team for this season.
As usual, the Big Macs' top team competes at the Class AAA level of the PIHL. Now, Canon-McMillan also is fielding a team in the Open Class.
“It was a competitive decision,” Canon-McMillan hockey association president Bruce Ferguson said. “How can we put these players in a position on a team in which they're going to get to play at a high enough level for them to get better?”
Adding an extra team at the top was the answer the program, in conjunction with the PIHL, came up with. A domino effect has made it so that most of the players in the school's program are now playing against higher-caliber competition.
“We're trying it for the first time and going to see what happens,” Class AAA varsity coach Yuri Krivokhija said. “From my experience, when you play against better teams all season, it's better for your development.”
Canon-McMillan has a rich history in the PIHL and has been one of the top Class AAA programs over the past few seasons. The Big Macs won the final Penguins Cup awarded at Mellon Arena in 2010. The following season, Ferguson said Canon-McMillan became the first PIHL program to add a second freshman-level team (often, middle school-aged kids play on “freshman” teams).
Of course, as those players aged, the need for roster spots at the next level did, too. The PIHL approved organizations having multiple junior varsity teams. When Ferguson attended a PIHL board meeting in which he wanted to pursue this, commissioner Ed Sam suggested a second varsity team instead.
“It just allows more kids to play without turning them away,” Sam said. “It gives them an opportunity to play varsity hockey.”
The hierarchy of the Canon-McMillan program is almost akin to a minor league system. Players move on from the freshman program to junior varsity, then to the Open Class varsity team and finally to the Class AAA team. There are exceptions — some kids have the ability to compete at the highest level of the program as ninth-graders, for example.
Nick Godfrey coached Canon-McMillan's junior varsity team last year. Now he's coaching the Open Class varsity team. Godfrey said the junior varsity team lost a total of four games over the past two seasons. In effect, the team that is playing in the varsity Open Class is exactly the group that would have been the Big Macs' junior varsity team.
“It's an exciting time for them — and an exciting challenge as well,” Godfrey said. “You can't coach some things. Sometimes they have to learn from experience — and that only happens if you have a good level of competition.”
Chris Adamski 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.
- Police arrest man believed to have killed officer
- New Kensington man killed in North Buffalo crash
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield
- Police officer fatally shot in New Florence; suspect in custody
- Penguins notebook: Johnston agrees with Dubinsky suspension
- As historic breakup nears, Alcoa works to redefine its ‘advantage’
- Family collecting donations for Salem man seriously injured in deer stand fall
- Zatkoff’s, Malkin’s heroics not enough as Oilers down Penguins in shootout
- New Christmas decorations make Leechburg shine a little brighter
- Gilbert, son of ex-Pitt football standout, commits to Panthers
- Newsmaker: David A. Harris