Thomas Jefferson hockey reflects on playoff season

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Saturday, March 17, 2018 | 12:16 AM


Thomas Jefferson hockey advanced to the PIHL Class A playoffs riding an eight-game winning streak and with a 17-3 record.

But the season came to a halt in the first round of the playoffs as the Jaguars fell to South Fayette, 5-2, at Rostraver Ice Gardens.

“We had a great season but a disappointing playoff game,” TJ coach Bill Crousey said. “Going into the playoffs we were playing our best hockey. However, for whatever reason, the team just couldn't put it together that game. South Fayette had a lot to do with that.

“When we did put things together, their goalie made a big save. It was a disappointing loss, but I'm really proud of the team's effort this season.”

Due to various reasons, TJ's veteran coach was forced to mix and match his lineup throughout the season.

“We played a total of three games with a full roster,” Crousey said, “relying on seven freshman to play big roles for our team.”

The Jaguars' forward lines for the playoff game consisted of junior Joey Oliver, senior Matt Krieger and freshman Eddie Pazo; freshman Riley Holzer, junior Hayden Hintemeyer and senior Kevin Koett; freshman William O'Brien, junior John Piscitelli and freshman Hunter Fairman; senior Jared Rossi, sophomore Mason McGuirk and freshman Luke Rayman. Johnny Rimsky, a junior forward, missed the game.

The defensive rotation was manned by senior Brendan Crousey, freshman Brady Rotollo, sophomore Brandon Kibe, sophomore Eric Burnstein, junior Paul Chonko and senior Casey Bilski. Freshman goaltender Luke Ripepi got the start.

During the regular season, Ripepi posted a 16-3 record with one shutout, a 2.63 goals-against average and .874 save percentage.

Brendan Crousey led the team in scoring with 15 goals and 23 assists, followed by Hintemeyer (13 goals,18 assists), Koett (13 goals, 16 assists), Oliver (14 goals, 11 assists), Rimsky (14 goals, 10 assists), Krieger (12 goals, 8 assists), Piscitelli (11 goals, 9 assists) and O'Brien (5 goals, 10 assists).

“I'm super proud of my team. We faced more diversity this year than in any years prior, and I believe we have had an unbelievable run,” said Crousey, one of five seniors. “Seventeen-and-three is something to be proud of even with our early playoff exit. It is a great shame we were not able to make it further.

“My senior year has been eye-opening. I have experienced and learned more than any other. I'm grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way, and I hope the underclassmen have learned a lot from the seniors. My coaches, especially my father, have always pushed me to be my very best, and I cannot thank them enough. It has been a true pleasure playing for Thomas Jefferson, and I wish the best for the team in the future.”

Thomas Jefferson finished tied for second with Meadville (17-3) in the regular-season standings, behind undefeated Bishop McCort (20-0). The Jaguars built a commanding 116-50 overall scoring advantage.

“We had people who played in different amateur travel organizations who bounced in and out of our lineup,” said Crousey, a four-year team member. “We had a freshman goaltender, and we had players out for illness and other various reasons. The team came together as a group to make this year a success. I commend everyone as a unit for that.”

Crousey, Krieger, another four-year team member, and Hintemeyer were selected as PIHL all-stars.

Other top squads in Class A were West Allegheny (16-4), Indiana (15-5), South Fayette, 14-7), Sewickley Academy (13-7), South Park (2-8), Westmont Hilltop (12-8) and Fox Chapel (11-9).

The Jaguars lost to Bishop McCort, 6-4, Meadville, 5-3, and South Fayette, 6-2, during the regular season.

“We lose some quality seniors but have a strong junior class returning,” coach Crousey said. “And many of our freshman were forced into gaining valuable experience, too.

“Hopefully, those returning are prepared to carry a chip on their shoulder with the disappointing end to our season.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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