Hampton hockey heads in new direction after midseason coaching change

Saturday, January 20, 2024 | 11:01 AM

On its way to a fifth consecutive losing season, the Hampton hockey team has made a midseason coaching shift.

Assistant Ian Cummings was promoted to replace Buck McKee, whose teams went 6-25 in his one-and-a-half seasons.

Cummings, 39, of Hampton was approved by the Hampton hockey club board Jan. 11, about one month after McKee informed his players he would no longer be part of the Talbots’ staff.

“It’s a tough situation to be in, halfway through the season,” Cummings said. “But (the players) have the right attitude and that’s all you can ask for. They asked me and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’ I basically want to be here to help the kids.”

The Talbots (4-10 as of Jan. 20) defeated Freeport, 3-2, in overtime Jan. 15 in Cummings’ debut as the new boss. It was the fewest goals allowed this season by Hampton, who were giving up 6.7 per game.

McKee told his players the news in the locker room Dec. 12 following a 6-5 loss to Richland that dropped the Talbots to 2-9. A private jet pilot whose job takes him out of town for seven days at a time, McKee had been hired before the 2022-23 season to replace Luke Leya, who went 24-49 in four seasons.

McKee and a Hampton hockey board member said the decision to make the change was amicable, and assistants Dave Wagner, Jim Schwarzbach, Dan Gynn and Sean McDermont have remained on the staff.

“They said, ‘We’ve decided to take the team in a new direction, so we are parting ways,’ ” sophomore forward Daniel Leyes said. “The team wasn’t going the way we wanted, and they were hoping to make a change to revitalize the team.”

Cummings, who has two sons in Hampton middle school hockey, joined the staff during the season as an unpaid assistant. He said he will work as a volunteer as head coach, deferring any salary.

“They were undecided as to who would be the head coach,” Cummings said. “I wanted to make sure these kids have the means to continue their season. … When I told them that I could make all the games, they said that would be a huge relief. At least somebody could be there and we don’t have to worry about juggling around schedules.

“There was a need … and I just offered my services. I had some free time and felt as part of the community, I could help and make it financially sound on the team.”

Cummings, a former player at Shady Side Academy, has coached youth hockey for the past decade with the Steel City Renegades and the North Pittsburgh Wildcats travel teams.

As of Jan. 20, Hampton was tied for 10th place in the 12-team PIHL Class A Blue Division. The Talbots, who went 4-16 last season, snapped an 0-5 start with a 6-5 win at Freeport. They also own a 6-5 win over Mars and a 4-3 overtime win against Plum on Dec. 18, the first game after McKee’s departure. The 20-game regular season ends Feb. 19 against visiting Westmont Hilltop.

Cummings is optimistic about the program’s future. The Talbots have a combined 12 freshmen and sophomores on the 18-man roster, including PIHL all-stars Leyes and Eli Schwarzbach, a sophomore defenseman.

“From what I saw on film, the team has talent,” Cummings said. “They have a compete level that’s evident. It was clear that they could score goals when they wanted to with good matchups. … I think whatever was happening before, from a statistical standpoint, they were giving up seven goals a game and only scoring three. But even with those stats, you could see there was potential. That’s kind of what intrigued me.”

Sophomore duo named all-stars

Sophomore forward Daniel Leyes and sophomore defenseman Eli Schwarzbach were first-time selections for the PIHL Class A Blue All-Star Game on Jan. 28 at RMU’s Island Sports Center.

Leyes has 12 goals and 13 assists for a team-high 25 points in 14 games as of Jan. 20. Schwarzbach has one goal and seven assists.

“I was really excited,” Leyes said. “I didn’t think I was going to be the one to make it. It was a great surprise.”


More High School Hockey

Franklin Regional junior varsity hockey goes on amazing underdog run
4 Quaker Valley girls hockey players compete in national championships
Franklin Regional hockey coach disappointed after being ousted
Pine-Richland hockey caps special season with 4th state championship
Penn-Trafford playoff run ends with loss in Penguins Cup finals