Freeport teammates Madyson Kirsch, Rowan Wible make big impact in PIHL girls league

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Thursday, June 15, 2023 | 8:55 PM


Madyson Kirsch familiarized herself with the new PIHL girls league last June when she and her father, Jim, attended the inaugural championship game at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township.

It helped spark her desire to be part of the league’s return this spring.

“From there, I knew I wanted to play for my school and see what it was all about,” said Kirsch, a forward and rising sophomore at Freeport.

Kirsch certainly made her mark in her PIHL debut. She led Team North and the league in scoring with 24 goals in 12 regular-season games.

She added another goal in Team North’s 3-2 overtime loss to Team Southeast in the PIHL quarterfinals June 7 at Alpha Ice Complex in Harmar. Team Southeast went on to win the title, defeating Team East, 3-2, in last Saturday’s championship game.

“It wasn’t just me,” Kirsch said of her offensive success this season.

“My teammates did a great job of setting me up and allowing me to get open. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Kirsch produced 10 multi-goal games, including a pair of hat tricks, as Team North, with players from North Allegheny, Seneca Valley and Mars, finished 6-4-0-3.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Kirsch said.

“I was excited to play against a couple of my friends from my Pens Elite (14U) team. They go to different schools. I just wanted to go out and have fun.”

Kirsch transitioned to the PIHL games from the Pens Elite season, which ended at the USA Hockey national championships in early April in Dallas.

Pens Elite made it to the semifinals of the Tier I 14U tournament before falling to Little Caesars (Mich.), 3-1.

Kirsch was happy to share the ice this spring with fellow Freeport freshman and defensive standout Rowan Wible.

Kirsch and Wible were teammates in the Armstrong Arrows organization for a couple of seasons.

“We then went our separate ways (in amateur hockey), but we remained close friends in school,” Kirsch said.

“We did play on our middle school team together. That was a lot of fun. Rowan is such a great player. It was great to stay teammates for this high school season.”

Wible didn’t put up the offensive numbers like Kirsch did. But her defensive presence was felt just as it was during her season with the Armstrong Arrows 19U team that qualified for the USA Hockey Tier II 1A championship tournament in Irvine, Calif.

The Arrows went 1-2 in round-robin play but fell short of the playoffs.

From there, Wible was off to the high school season with Kirsch and the rest of the Team North players.

“This season was so much fun,” she said.

“I loved playing with and against girls I grew up playing with. I also got to know so many girls that I’ve seen around but didn’t really know well. I also love that it gives girls a chance to represent their schools in hockey when there may not be a place for them on the boys team.

“Freeport was so supportive and celebrated the team throughout the season. Mady and I have been close since third grade. We always have so much fun playing together. She’s so exciting to watch. Mady’s very competitive and takes the game seriously, but she’s always having fun.”

Kirsch recently returned from a showcase in Toronto, and she is looking forward to another showcase in Boston, a camp in Minnesota, and a USA player development camp at Colgate University in July.

She will continue with the Pens Elite in the fall and will move up to 16U, while Wible will remain with her Arrows Tier II 19U team.

They both hope to represent Freeport in the high school league next spring.

“Everybody was there with the same mindset: to win games and have a lot of fun,” Kirsch said about Team North’s approach to the season.

“It was pretty competitive the whole time, and that’s what we wanted.”

While attending last year’s title game, Kirsch and others witnessed Burrell’s Ellie Jarrett raise the championship trophy with Team East after its 2-1 overtime victory over Team Central.

Jarrett returned to the high school league this spring and made a new start with Team Northeast, which featured players from State College, Karns City, North Catholic, Hampton, Westmont Hilltop, Oil City, Armstrong and Hollidaysburg high schools.

Only two of Jarrett’s teammates from last year,Armstrong sophomore defenseman Olyvia Yackmack and Westmont Hilltop junior defenseman Julia Clement, remained as teammates with her this spring. She thought there would be lineup changes with the addition of one team, new girls coming in and others moving on because of graduation.

“I knew that they would want to put all the girls from the same school on a team and would try to make the teams as even as possible,” Jarrett said. “I think they did that as a lot of the games were pretty competitive.

“It was cool in a way because I got to know more people. Everyone has a different way of playing the game, so I got to see how they interpreted things and what they did in certain situations.”

Team Northeast bowed out of the playoffs with a 4-2 loss to Team Central on June 7 and finished 5-6-0-2. Jarrett, a forward, ended her season with three goals and two assists in 12 games.

“We all came together and meshed pretty quickly,” Jarrett said.

“By the second period of the first game, we were already starting to click and making those passes and necessary plays.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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