The race for the Penguins Cup is upon us, and there are 16 teams in single-A vying for a postseason spot. Here’s a reason why each team has a chance to move one step closer to UPMC66 and the Penguins Cup.
West Allegheny: The Indians returned 14 players from last years 12-4 team, improving upon their previous finish. Two blemishes to Montour and North Allegheny are the negatives on a 15-3 season.
Why I like West Allegheny: Head coach Brian Boehm expects nothing but improvement from a squad that returned 14 players – and is only graduating four. I don’t envy the locker room with a loss here, and I’ll assume the players know what I mean.
Chartiers Valley: The Colts finished the season 7-10-1, but that record is deceiving. Seven of those losses were by two goals or less – the Colts are a competitive bunch.
Why I like Chartiers Valley: The Colts were in the majority of their games this year outside the two games against Thomas Jefferson. The hockey in the South/East is vastly deeper than the North and the Colts had three teams above them clinch home ice out of the four possible.
Montour: The Spartans lead the entire classification at 17-1, and only saw a challenge from West Allegheny and Meadville. The Bulldogs handed Montour their only loss of the season, as well as a third-period scare in their other meeting (that ended in curfew).
Why I like Montour: The Spartans are the best team in the single-A North, and are deep on the bench. Richie Froehlich, Michael Felsing and Ryan Eisel are as lethal as they come, finishing 1-3-5 in points this year.
Greensburg-Salem: The Golden Lions enter the postseason at 5-13 and 11th in the combined conference. Three wins over Kiski Area, a win over Wheeling Park and a wild 7-6 win over No. 4 Indiana are the high points
Why I like Greensburg-Salem: Anything can happen. Even Dr. Strange had to see 14,000,605 combinations to find a way to defeat Thanos. Hey, I’m trying to be gentle here.
South Park: The Eagles are coming off of a tough season in the toughest division in single-A. Five losses to Thomas-Jefferson and South Fayette, plus losses to Indiana and Wheeling Catholic weren’t enough to keep them from clinching a home game here.
Why I like South Park: A home crowd makes this an interesting matchup, and I think the Eagles have enough depth to contain a strong offensive threat from the Panthers.
Sewickley Academy: The Panthers losses stem from getting swept by the four teams above them, plus a loss to Fox Chapel. The Panthers defeated every team below them.
Why I like Sewickley Academy: In a division where the top four teams were light years above the bottom six, the Panthers have a lot to prove to the rest of single-A. Having an elite player in Matthew Hajdukiewicz could prove to be the game changer.
South Fayette: The Lions imposed their will on every team they faced, only dropping contests to Bishop McCort and a late-season contest to Chartiers Valley. SF only gave up four goals twice on the year.
Why I like South Fayette: BRRRRRRUUUUUUUCCCCCCEEEEEE. Bruce Hardman and a stingy defense are the things that cause nightmares for the people who have to game-plan.
Blackhawk vs. Beaver, Brady’s Run on Monday
North Hills: The Indians played tough against every team not named Montour during the regular season, and only suffered a split against No. 2 West Allegheny and two close losses to Meadville in the process.
Why I like North Hills: If you remove the two games against Montour, Ethan Isaly is one of the top goaltenders in single-A. Westmont Hilltop is not Montour.
Westmont Hilltop: The Hilltoppers started their season strong with wins over Indiana and Bishop McCort, only to slide into the postseason by losing 6 of their last 10. The good news is that they won 4-of-6 and their last three, including a victory over Norwin for the No. 5 seed in the final week.
Why I like Westmont Hilltop: The compete factor is prevalent with the Hilltoppers, and the offense has been potent enough to keep up with the top teams in the South/East.
Meadville: The Bulldogs play Bulldogs hockey, while they are short-benched they play a complete 51 every time they go out. Eddie Kaufman and Jordan McCurdy get the job done regardless the opponent.
Why I like Meadville: The 2018 single-A runner-up return Nick Frantz, Cohl Weber and Brendan Leech as well as the aforementioned Kaufman for another run. Good enough for me.
Norwin: The Good: The Knights started out their season hot, winning six of their first seven. The Bad: The Knights ended their season losing 8-of-11.
Why I like Norwin: Everyone likes an underdog story. Heading to Meadville to face the Bulldogs in their own house with the only marquee win of the season being a 6-4 win over Westmont Hilltop and sweeps of Greensburg-Salem and Kiski Area on your resume make this the ultimate one.
Thomas Jefferson: A heroic run by the Jaguars that almost ended with a division crown and a number one seed was thwarted by two losses to vaunted rival South Fayette and a loss to Bishop McCort.
Why I like Thomas Jefferson: The Jaguars scored five goals in every game that they won. Nine of those were seven-or-more outputs. The offense is beyond potent enough, but… (see: Why I like Freeport)
Freeport: The Yellowjackets come into the postseason winless in 2019, and the losers of eight in a row.
Why I like Freeport: … (Why I like Thomas Jefferson, continued) the Jaguars needed every bit of those offensive outbursts, ceding more goals as the season progressed. Freeport may be able to capitalize on this.
Indiana: The Indians, winners of 9-of-11 to end the season, are led by Eddy Williams and Luke Wachob on offense and senior Madison Barker in net. Three close games against Bishop McCort and a win over South Park highlight their resume.
Why I like Indiana: Wachob is deadly with the extra attacker, and Barker can steal a game at any given time.
Fox Chapel: The Foxes won five of their last eight en-route to a sixth-place finish, but none of their victories were against teams in the top four. Reed Troutman and Colby Zmenkowski are offensive threats, but not enough to overcome an .843 save-percentage, good enough for twelfth place of the qualifying teams.
Why I like Fox Chapel: This is a tough, young team that will only get better over the next couple of years. A win over a good, veteran Indiana squad can accelerate that evolution.