Balanced Baldwin climbs to top of PIHL standings

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Saturday, January 18, 2020 | 12:19 AM


Baldwin wrapped up the 2019 portion of its PIHL season with an 8-0 record.

The Highlanders started with a 9-1 victory over Montour on Oct. 3, routed Hampton, 10-2, on Dec. 9 and won six times in between.

That’s more than two months without a loss.

Baldwin, West Allegheny and Montour all posted eight wins to stand tied with 16 points atop the Southwest AA Conference.

WA and Montour, however, both had four losses on their record, giving the Highlanders a significant head start to the section title in 2020.

Baldwin built a 55-14 scoring advantage against PIHL competition by the end of December, led by a scoring-by-committee approach.

“I’m very proud of the team thus far,” coach Justin Glock said. “But record aside, I believe we can be better. Our coaching staff constantly stresses that we need to improve, play the right way and form good habits in our game.

“This ties into my expectations for the rest of the season. We have a packed schedule, playing 11 games in the last two months. Our team needs to be focused in every game and practice. We’re going to have to overcome adversity and face some tough opponents. We want to win every game, learn something from every game and become a better team every game.”

The Highlanders have displayed a balanced attack on offense.

The team’s leading scorers consist of juniors Keith Reed (five goals, seven assists) and Dylan Belak (six, five), seniors Jimmy Dulya (four, seven) and Justin Pollard (four, six), plus sophomores Carson Kress (two, seven), Don Trimbur (four, four) and Logan Picchi (three, four).

All seven are forwards.

Paul Zmuda, a senior, and Nelson Buys, a sophomore, have helped anchor the defense, complemented by juniors Robbie Aranos and Blake George, and sophomores Trevor Belak and Lorenzo Shipley. Zmuda also is an offensive threat with a team-high seven goals and four assists.

“Of our top five point-scorers, one is a defenseman and the other four all play on different lines,” Glock said. “I thought we would be very competitive before the season started. We had a lot of players returning and a lot of young talent added to the team.

“I told the team that they could be a special group if they play up to their potential. I think they’ve proven to each other that they can be a great team when they play together and utilize their strengths.”

The Highlanders’ line combinations consist of, in no particular order: Reed centering seniors Noah Fischer and Vinnie Episcopo; Dylan Belak between Trimbur and Kress; senior Zach Pender centering sophomore Joey Antonio and Dulya; and Pollard in the middle of Picchi and junior Joey Jacobs.

“We can play four lines every game,” Glock said. “If one of our lines is having an off game, another line is picking up the slack. If you went back and analyzed each game, each of our lines had a game where it was the best line on the ice.

“And we have a great group of defensemen. They’re strong at moving the puck and knowing when to join the offense.”

Baldwin’s top goaltenders are senior Tanner Cindrich and sophomore Eddie Nowicki.

Cindrich was 6-0 with a 1.80 goals-against average and .937 save percentage through eight games. He surrendered 12 goals on 189 shots.

Nowicki was 2-0 with a 1.51 GAA and .900 save percentage. He allowed two goals on 20 shots.

“Our goaltending has been great,” Glock said. “Tanner is a gamer and stepped up big in some close games like Meadville, where we won in a shootout, and West Allegheny, where he made some incredible saves.

“Eddie played great in a game versus Shaler and shut the door when he came in relief against Mars. There is a lot competition at the goaltender position throughout our association, so it pushes all of the goalies to be their best and improve.”

Baldwin kicked off its schedule with three preseason games in the St. Margaret’s tournament, posting a 2-1 record.

The Highlanders returned to the ice Jan. 3-5 to participate in a tournament at Gilmore Academy near Cleveland.

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