Junior goalie stands tall for Pine-Richland hockey team

Sunday, November 28, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Most days after arriving home from elementary school, Dan Mooney would hop off the bus, drop his backpack and jump right into the middle of a pickup hockey game.

“My older brother (Tommy) and his friends would always be playing in the driveway,” Mooney said. “They didn’t have a goalie, so they’d always tell me to throw on the pads and get into the net. As soon as I did that, I loved it.”

Those driveway hockey sessions turned into ice hockey games, and Mooney has stayed true to the position assigned to him by his older brother and his friends.

Now he’s blossomed into one of the top goaltenders in the entire PIHL.

Mooney, a junior, has a 1.75 goals-against average and .940 save percentage through Pine-Richland’s first six games. He ranks first in PIHL Class 3A in both categories for goalies that have started more than five games.

He’s made more than 30 saves three times and has allowed only one goal four times, helping the Rams get off to a 4-2 start.

Pine-Richland coach Jordan Yoklic described Mooney as a “beast” in net since the season has started.

Mooney credited the Rams defense for keeping traffic in front of the net at a minimum so he can see every shot on goal and the coaches for having a good game plan each night.

He also understands the scrutiny that can come with playing goalie, but he embraces the pressure. He cited Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury as goalies he’s studied and tried to emulate.

“It’s a tough position because the spotlight is on you most of the time, and if the puck gets past you, there’s nowhere to hide,” Mooney said. “It’s important to have a good mental aspect to the game, which I think I do a pretty good job of. I try to stay positive and not let my emotions get too high or too low.”

Mooney’s first start of the season was an 8-1 win over Peters Township, but he saw plenty of action, stopping 38 of 39 shots. He followed that game with a 37-save performance in a 7-1 win against Canon-McMillan. He also had 31 saves in a 3-1 victory at Upper St. Clair and 28 saves in a 2-1 overtime win over Mt. Lebanon.

Not only has Mooney got off to a good start, he’s carried on what has become a tradition of strong goaltending at Pine-Richland over the last few seasons.

Mooney backed up James Saber last year, and before that, Dan Stauffer posted consecutive seasons with save percentages over .900 and helped the Rams win the 2019 PIHL Penguins Cup title and the state championship. Stauffer currently plays at West Virginia in the ACHA.

Mooney spent a lot of time watching both them and is putting what he learned to good use.

“My brother (Tommy) played when Stauffer was the starter, so I went to most of those games,” he said. “Watching him and how fast the game was a good learning experience. Backing up Jimmy last year was a great learning lesson. I look back on it and he was a great mentor for me.

“Going into the summer, I knew I’d have a larger role on the team, so I worked on fine-tuning my game and being solid in all aspects.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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