PIHL girls league’s West team coming together, racking up wins

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Sunday, May 22, 2022 | 9:01 AM


One social aspect of the newly established PIHL girls division is the camaraderie among the teams.

“Girls hockey is the largest growing sport right now. The timing could not have been better,” West coach Jeff Tindall said. “I think it is an amazing opportunity for these girls and girls hockey in Pittsburgh, in general.

“A special thank you to those involved in making this league happen. I think all the teams in the league feel the same way — how lucky are we to be part of the first year of PIHL girls hockey.

“Our team has been working hard on and off the ice to promote this league. Some of my girls woke up at 4 a.m. to volunteer at the Pittsburgh Marathon to help promote the league. This league is so much fun; the girls cheer for their friends when they aren’t playing against them and play hard against each other when they play — exactly how it should be. I’m very proud of this league and especially proud of Team West.”

The soon-to-be 44-year-old Tindall has been coaching girls hockey teams off and on for the past decade.

“What I have learned in that time is that the girls like to be treated as hockey players because the gender doesn’t matter. These kids can play,” he said. “One of my first experiences coaching girls was with the Pens Elite U19 girls years ago. The first game, the girls got together for their pep talk; the first words out of the mouth of the captain were ‘Let’s go, boys.’ That was a very eye-opening moment for me. I’ve treated them like hockey players ever since.

“I want every player that plays for me — male or female — to come out with a better understanding of the game and to ultimately love the game.”

The West team was unbeatable through seven games this season with consecutive wins against Central, 5-2, Southwest, 7-3, Southeast, 2-1, East, 4-1, North, 9-1 and 3-0, and East, 4-0.

“I like to think it is the great coaching, but the truth is in my opinion the team that bonds the fastest will be the best in the end,” Tindall said. “This is a short season with 10 games over two months, so my focus was to try to get the girls to have fun from day one.

“It is much easier to come together as a team if it is fun. We play music at practice and chirp to each other as much as we can. It is an extremely fun group. I am already regretting June coming when the season will be over. I will miss this team greatly.”

The West coach said the team’s goals focus on improvement.

“I try to keep it simple,” Tindell said. “Work hard and get better every day. We focus on offensive concepts and hockey IQ. I want the girls to love the game first and foremost.”

One of the players on Team West most emblematic of Tindall’s thought process for this season is freshman forward Elizabeth Bowers, who lives in Bell Acres in Sewickley and has been home schooled since first grade.

“What a fun person to be around. She doesn’t have a bad day,” Tindall said. “The fun and energy she brings to the rink every day is infectious. She is doing more and more on the ice to contribute each game, another reason this team is coming together so quickly.”

Bowers, who had one goal and five assists in seven games, is joined on the team by three QV students — Emily Reiner, a freshman forward and the youngest player on the team, and twin sisters Lindsay Shurmatz, a sophomore defender, and Sydney Shurmatz, a sophomore forward. Reiner also is a goalie on the girls varsity lacrosse team at QV.

Tindall offered the following:

“Emily Reiner — what a great kid and great hockey player,” he said. “She is taller than most of the girls, so she has a longer reach and definitely knows how to use her size. She’s an absolute joy to coach and a great teammate.

“Lindsay and Sydney are playing great hockey. Lindsay, on defense, is learning how to step up in the neutral zone and believe in what she sees and she is doing a great job. Sydney plays offense and she is very crafty with the puck and reads the play in the offensive zone very well. Both girls are fun to coach and are great teammates as well.”

Other West team members are seniors Mara Carlisle (Linsly) and Cassidy Anderson (Montour); juniors Marley Webster (Trinity) and Sara Setto (Trinity); sophomores Jenna Collins (Moon), Bailey Medved (West Allegheny), Lakyn Schaltenbrand (Montour), Hannah Kiss (West Allegheny) and Susan Nelson (Freedom); and freshmen Tessa Moore (Linsly), Lillian Relyea (Moon) and Antonia Valeri (Montour).

The West had outscored the opposition 33-8; the team’s offensive attack has been balanced five players accounting for 23 goals.

Carlisle led in the scoring column with five goals and eight assists; Moore added five goals and three assists while Kiss tacked on five goals and an assist. Webster and Reiner chipped in with four goals apiece. Relyea was credited with seven assists.

Collins, the West’s starting goaltender, was 7-0 with a 0.99 goals-against average, .958 save percentage and two shutouts (in her last two games). She had allowed only seven goals on 165 shots.

During the winter months, Tindall coaches the Moon hockey team in the PIHL boys division. He has coached the Tigers for three seasons and prior to that, had coaching stints with the Steel City Select girls, Pens Elite girls and boys and the Arctic Foxes organization.

“The Moon organization has treated me very well over the past few years,” Tindall said, “and I am looking forward to growing the team and organization going forward. We had a pretty good year (in 2021-22), and we’re looking forward to another solid one this year.”

Team West in the PIHL girls division also is having a “pretty good,” if not great, year.

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