Hampton hockey seniors deal with circumstances beyond their control

Sunday, March 25, 2018 | 8:36 PM

What if you were told the last game of your high school career would be a playoff win, but it wouldn't be a championship?

Those might be the bittersweet emotions running through the minds of 12 seniors on the Hampton hockey team, which was forced to forfeit after a 6-2 victory against Upper St. Clair when the PIHL discovered the Talbots used an academically ineligible player.

The fallout left the Talbots feeling confused. The decision was made not to retain coach Dave Anderson after two years at the helm.

“We like to focus on individuals becoming men,” said Hampton hockey president Dave Andrews, who will help begin the search for a new coach immediately. “This is a tough decision for adults, let alone for an 18-year-old player. For them to face this is going to help them in situations like this in the future.”

The official reason for forfeiting was “rules infraction.” After information about the ineligible player was leaked, the PIHL took action, awarding Upper St. Clair a victory. The Panthers were ousted in the semifinals by eventual champion Armstrong, 11-4.

“There's times the players screw up,” Andrews said. “But they didn't do anything. To have a game forfeited is traumatizing to them, so the No. 1 objective now is the decisions we make.”

The outcome is hardly a blight on a season that might have been the best for Hampton since it made the PIAA semifinals in 2013. The team finished third in Class AA East with a record of 9-10 in a season full of parity aside from the dominant River Hawks.

Quaker Valley, which finished with an identical record to the Talbots, made the title game from the other side of the bracket.

“Any given night, teams could beat each other,” said senior goalie Connor Andrews, who along with forwards Michael Orban, Luke Schweer and Justin Adamski and defenseman Jason Reinert, made the Class AA all-star team. “It was really competitive, and everyone really bonded because of it. We didn't put a three-game win streak together all year, so we had to deal with adversity.”

That adversity continues — for the seniors, in particular.

But the senior goalie, who was among the league leaders in Class AA with a 7-2 record, a 2.55 goals-against average and two shutouts, feels some reverence for what the team accomplished.

“It was a big moment for us,” he said. “Regardless of what they say, we know we won that game. As much as you hate to look back at it like that, the last memory of your team was celebrating in the locker room the first playoff win for Hampton in three years.”

Adamski, who battled through injuries and played club hockey, led the team in goals with 16. Orban led in assists and points with 13 and 26. The performance against Upper St. Clair was even more impressive considering the team was without its leading goal-scorer because of a suspension.

“We were able to show how well we could play against Upper St. Clair,” said Connor Andrews, who will try to play club hockey at Penn State with teammate Reinert. “That was probably our best game. We were missing Justin and still hung 6-2 on them in their arena.”

The team showed its respect for their coach by voting to have him at the end-of-year banquet.

“He's been there for years and invested in them,” said Dave Andrews. “It's a good group of boys. I think they made some intelligent decisions.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.


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