When the puck drops for Norwin and South Park at Center Ice Arena in Delmont on Monday Nov. 2, 2020, it will have been 236 days since the players hit the ice for a meaningful game of high school-level hockey.
FEELS LIKE FOREVER
The last time that we were all together to watch a game, well, was the last time we were allowed to be together to watch a game. Baldwin and Greater Latrobe locked up their bids to play for the Class-2A Penguins Cup at Lemieux Sports Complex; everyone was looking forward to seeing whether Seneca Valley could continue their upset streak against Peters Township; and North Allegheny was set to battle Pine-Richland in the last of the semifinals.
The next several months were a rollercoaster of heartbreak and hope. Like all other sports, senior classes of the ten remaining teams could only think of ‘what-if’ scenarios and wished that they could have completed what they set out to do less than a decade prior; they now put that faith in the current groups.
The league will open with no defending champions for the first time since its inaugural season. While Ringgold, Montour, Pine-Richland, and North Allegheny can still be considered defending champions from 2019, only the current junior and senior players are hold-overs from those squads, and only if they played varsity the previous two years.
The league uses on a comparative formula that operates in the same way European football leagues do. The major difference is that the PIHL uses regular season records instead of championships, which became more important than ever this offseason without the final six games being contested.
The teams remain unchanged for the upcoming season, so if you were looking for Greater Latrobe to be added, you will have to wait another year to see the Wildcats in the top group.
A number of solid seasons in Class-1A led Thomas Jefferson to the next level, and the Jaguars are ready to compete with Baldwin, West Allegheny, and South Fayette for the Southwest division crown. TJ’s elevation sends Montour to the Northwest division, where Moon, Mars, and Meadville should be up to the task.
Two new competitors head to Single-A; Quaker Valley drops from Class-2A into Thomas Jefferson’s Southwest spot, while perennial contender Bishop McCort leaves the PIHL Varsity level, moving Indiana to the Southeast. The North Catholic Trojans move to the Northeast and McDowell fills the vacant Northwest spot, moving up from Class-B.
Besides the aforementioned movement of McDowell to a pure division, Class-B remains unchanged. This allows the North and South divisions, with 6 teams each, to play a balanced schedule for the upcoming season.
As the season opens, Pittsburgh Hockey Digest is looking forward to bringing everyone the best coverage possible. This includes following all rink procedures including masking and social distancing. While we navigate the waters of what may be the most ever-changing season, it will become important that we do the best to update our followers on anything that may change on a day-to-day basis. Coverage and broadcast schedules will be announced two weeks ahead of time, and will be subject to change.
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Welcome back, hockey fans.