Latrobe hockey still waiting to see if it will play for Penguins Cup
Friday, May 8, 2020 | 3:56 PM
One game to go. One abandoned, unresolved game that was left to stew in the penalty box for something it didn’t do.
Latrobe is a single victory from a Class AA championship, but the Wildcats’ final PIHL game might never happen.
The Penguins Cup final against Baldwin has sat in limbo for the better part of 50 days since the league opted to suspend its remaining postseason games for two weeks before postponing them indefinitely.
Six varsity games — four Penguin Cup games and two semifinals — are awaiting their fate.
“We are not sure when a final decision will be made,” Latrobe coach Josh Werner said. “But we are hoping the game will get played. It has been brutal (waiting). …The season is not over until the league says it is.”
Like the other teams whose playoff runs were halted, Latrobe is awaiting word from the PIHL on what will become of the suspended games.
Senior players such as forward Jarred Stein, one of 10 12th-graders on the roster, longs for a last chance to skate with his teammates. Walled off from the world, Stein is trying to stay optimistic but be realistic.
“The toughest part has been not being on the ice or seeing the boys and showing everybody what we worked so hard for all season,” he said. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going on yet, but it’s looking like the game will not be played.
“It’s sad to think I might have played my last game.”
High-scoring Latrobe is 18-1 and was having one of its best seasons in program history when the covid-19 spread halted the sports world.
“A layoff this long isn’t good at all,” Werner said. “Usually you get something like this going into tryouts. Not much silver lining or anything in this case. Other than if we get to play this game after the layoff we know the country is in a better state. We have our fingers crossed.”
With ice time often at a premium, high school hockey teams are used to extended layoffs. But not like this. The Class AA final would have been March 16 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.
Latrobe’s last game — a 3-2 semifinal win over Hempfield at RMU Island Sports Center — was March 11.
The PIHL website says the junior varsity and middle school tournaments and girls new mini-season are canceled. But it follows with, “The PIHL will continue to monitor the situation regarding the six remaining varsity games. Our goal is to provide every opportunity to allow those games to be played.”
That message has been frozen in time for weeks.
Werner said players are working out on their own, just in case there is a final.
“The boys are continuing to work out at home and roller blade in hope of staying in some sort of shape,” the coach said. “Everyone is waiting for that e-mail or call with a date and time. We would play tomorrow if we could. But it has been a crazy ride. One I hope no one has to see again. I feel for the seniors and other student-athletes who don’t get to play their sport.”
Stein said winning the Director’s Cup will be the highlight that sticks with him if the title game is wiped away.
“The whole team worked hard every practice and every game to get to where we were,” he said. “With the goal to win a Pens Cup and go on to the state championship, I wish we could have the chance to finish the season off to show everybody how hard we’ve worked.”
The Pennsylvania Cup state playoffs have been canceled. Normally, the PIHL Penguins Cup winners play winners of the Flyers Cup from the other side of the state.
Werner said coaches may get together soon for a virtual meeting. He said players were asked to re-watch the semifinal game and write a paper about what they saw.
“So they have been engaged in that way,” Werner said. “We have our fingers crossed.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .