Baldwin in prime position for another shot at Penguins Cup championship
Sunday, January 10, 2021 | 9:01 AM
The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on the Baldwin hockey team.
After winning its first 15 games last year, Baldwin advanced to the PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA finals with a 19-1 record and was set to play 18-1 Latrobe in the championship game.
The PIHL season was shut down before the two teams could face off at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
“Every season is different, and I’m sure our returning players want another crack at playing in a Pens Cup again this season,” Baldwin coach Justin Glock said. “But we’re a long way off from that. We respect every opponent, so we won’t look ahead like that.
“Last year as with right now, we stay in touch with the PIHL and they have had a great line of communication. We had some virtual team meetings last year while waiting to see if our Pens Cup game would be played. The PIHL did everything they could to make it happen, but it was out of their hands and got too late into the summer.”
The ongoing pandemic hasn’t kept Baldwin off the winning ledger this season. Many of the players on last year’s playoff team returned for the 2020-21 season.
Baldwin began its quest for that coveted PIHL title with a 2-1 victory against South Fayette. Baldwin also won its next four games versus Thomas Jefferson (4-3), Plum (11-0), Moon (8-0) and Armstrong (8-1) to take a 5-0 record into the new year.
Baldwin logged a lopsided 33-5 scoring advantage through five contests.
“The team has performed pretty well so far,” Glock said. “We’ve had some games where we’ve played really well, and others where we didn’t perform to the best of our ability. Thomas Jefferson may have outplayed us, and we were fortunate to win due to stellar play by our goalie Eddie Nowicki in the third period of that game.
“We want to keep improving and be a difficult team to play against. We want our players to find a gritty consistency. But I’m proud of the team so far considering our injuries and the pandemic.”
The PIHL season was shut down from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4 due to Gov. Tom Wolf’s newest covid-19 guidelines, which included pausing high school sports throughout the state.
Baldwin was scheduled to host Shaler (Jan. 14) and Hampton (Jan. 21) at Ice Castle Arena coming out of the pause. The Highlanders also have a road game on tap Jan. 28 against Latrobe.
“We’ve dealt with the pandemic in the best way we can and are doing our part to follow guidelines,” Glock said. “I continue to remind our players that it’s a small sacrifice to follow pandemic guidelines so we’re able to play hockey. I think the PIHL has done a phenomenal job under these unique circumstances. They’ve had to reschedule and adjust game schedules all year. They’ve been great keeping the league’s hope alive that we will finish this season.”
Baldwin is led offensively by senior center Keith Reed with nine goals and two assists, averaging more than two points per game. Reed’s linemates are junior LW Joey Antonio and senior RW Zack Borman.
Reed is a fourth-year varsity player and team captain. He also competes in the SHAHA-18U AA program and has been playing hockey since he was 3.
“I’m happy with how our team has started. We’ve been winning and having fun doing it,” Reed said. “Starting off with two section wins was big and we keep building off every game.
“My early expectation for us was to be one of the top high school hockey teams, and to be the team everyone wants to beat.”
Reed said Baldwin is driven to attain a berth in the Pens Cup finals again in 2020-21.
“Having the final canceled still does not feel real,” he said. “It was my dream to play in that game. Being cut short did provide a lot of motivation for this year. We want to put ourselves back in that same position.”
Baldwin’s other lines consist of senior C Dylan Belak and juniors Don Trimbur (LW), Carson Kress (RW); juniors Xander Aul (C), LW Logan Picchi and senior RW Joey Jacobs; and sophomore LW Nick Buys, freshman C Tanner Plinta and junior RW Collin Kuch.
Belak and senior defender Robbie Aranos are alternate captains
Through five games, the team’s scoring was distributed evenly among 16 players.
Trevor Belak, a junior defender, accounted for six goals and one assist; Dylan Belak, Borman, Trimbur and Aranos had five points.
While Baldwin averaged close to seven goals per game, the defensive corps was near-flawless, allowing just five goals.
Defensive tandems consist of Aranos and junior Nelson Buys, juniors Lorenzo Shipley and Trevor Belak, and senior Bruno Maietta alongside either senior Blake George or sophomore Brady Zofcin.
Eddie Nowicki, a junior, and Alex Golvash, a sophomore, are the goaltenders. Nowicki is 5-0 with a 1.07 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.
Through December, Baldwin was one of four undefeated teams in Class AA along with West Allegheny (5-0), Hempfield (4-0) and Montour (2-0).
“I would like to see us work on the little things in the second half of the season, become a hard team to beat and end up in the Pens Cup final,” Reed said. “Our coach has been a great part of our winning, and we enjoy being coached by him.”
Baldwin and West Allegheny are tied for first in the Varsity AA Southwest Division, followed by TJ (2-1-1) and South Fayette (1-3-2).
“I didn’t set a team goal from a record standpoint,” Glock said. “We still have plenty of tough competition to play. We want to perfect our systems and be a pain to play against. We want to be in a playoff position and playing our best hockey at the end of the year.
“Our team has a lot of potential. However, if we become complacent and don’t continue to push to be better, we might find ourselves on the wrong side of some (scores). If we continue to improve and get better, the wins will happen.”