North Hills hockey in position for postseason success

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Thursday, February 21, 2019 | 8:57 PM


The PIHL regular season has come to a close for the North Hills hockey team, a group with a 13-5 record that has the No. 4 seed in the Class A North Division sewn up.

The finish to the regular-season schedule represents the conclusion of a journey that began back in October and the beginning of a new crusade as the team revs up for postseason play. The crucial juncture for North Hills occurs at an opportune time, as well, with the team poised to enter the playoffs on a six-game winning streak, a stretch that, according to coach Kevin Pawlos, has seen the team playing its best hockey.

“We’re pretty pleased with our performance right now. I think if you talk to any coach, if you hit your stride at the right time, they’ll say it’s crucial,” he said.

“Looking back on the second half of the year, since early December we’ve only lost two games, so we’re 11-2 since then. In our last game, we feel like we had a convincing 7-2 win against Fox Chapel. We outshot them pretty well. We’re hitting our stride at the right time, and we’re happy with where we’re at.”

North Hills’ hot streak is a result of its dedication to playing within its offensive and defensive systems.

The strong goaltending play of Ethan Isaly, who boasts a .899 save percentage, paired with stalwart defensive play has resulted in just 57 goals allowed in 18 games — the fourth-best mark in their division.

Meanwhile, the team’s offensive system, which places an emphasis on puck control and deliberate, workmanlike offensive possessions, has helped the Indians wear down opponents. The validation for their success lies in the fact the team has outscored opponents 28-12 in the third period.

The approach is even better suited for playoff hockey, according to Pawlos.

“I think our forwards are a little bigger and can possess the puck well when we’re in the offensive zone and can dictate how shifts go and how periods go. We want to stick to our game and make teams play the style that we want to play,” the North Hills coach said.

“In the defensive zone, our goaltending is very solid and our penalty kill has been pretty great throughout the year. So, we’re confident in what we’re doing right now, how it’s working and how it can work in the playoffs. We think that no matter who we play, we can tailor our game to give us the best opportunity to win.”

Regardless of their playoff finish, the Indians are in the midst of a stellar turnaround from last season.

Under the tutelage of Pawlos, in his first season at North Hills, the program rallied from a 2-17 record last season.

Playoff pairings will be finalized once all PIHL teams have concluded their regular seasons.

The final games of the regular season were scheduled for Feb. 26, past deadline for this edition.

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