PIHL juggling schedule amid covid restrictions

Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 6:32 PM

When the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League began its season earlier this month, league officials prepared themselves for several possible scenarios.

With covid safety protocols in place sent down from the governor’s office, area school districts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, play began with the knowledge that covid issues and precautionary measures could affect games and toy with schedules.

That has become a reality with postponements at the varsity, junior varsity and middle school levels.

But PIHL president John Mucha said he is happy with the way all involved are working together to keep things moving forward in the safest way possible.

“We reach out to the rinks as soon as possible to give them an opportunity to possibly sell the ice to someone else,” said Mucha, who understands there most likely will be cancellations moving forward where schools or teams shut down for different reasons.

“Going forward, the rinks have been great in helping us and accommodating us to get the games in. This doesn’t work without a strong partnership. We want to make sure the teams and the players get as many opportunities to play safely while everyone deals with the ongoing pandemic.”

Mucha said there have been multiple situations where a varsity team canceled a game, but the junior varsity or middle school team still was allowed to play, and vice versa, because of limited interaction between the levels.

A pair of cancellations last Monday led to some quick thinking and a new matchup. In Class 2A, Penn-Trafford’s game against West Allegheny and Moon’s game against Montour were postponed.

Instead of losing a chance to play, Penn-Trafford’s Feb. 4 game with Moon was moved up and played at Center Ice Arena in Delmont. It was a strong outcome for the Warriors (2-1) who defeated the Tigers, 12-3, behind four goals and an assist from Nate Loughner and a pair of goals each from Bryce Kropczynski and Xavier Solomon.

Franklin Regional’s upcoming Class 2A games Tuesday at Shaler and Nov. 30 at Plum will have to be rescheduled. The Mustangs also are following requirements that all athletic activities be paused until Dec. 1 as part of larger covid mitigation efforts by the school district.

The Burrell hockey program also is taking a break until Dec. 1. Varsity Class B games with Neshannock (Nov. 16) and Central Valley (Monday) are off, and the league is working to have them rescheduled.

“This was a precautionary measure, especially with Thanksgiving coming up and the possibility of our players being around family, including older family members,” Burrell coach Lou Ammon said.

“It seemed to be the most prudent thing to do under the circumstances.”

A number of the postponed games involve West Virginia-based schools Wheeling Park, Wheeling Catholic and Morgantown. West Virginia governor Jim Justice on Nov. 13 announced that high school winter sports will not be permitted to start until Jan. 11. Hockey for those three schools falls under that ruling.

Wheeling Catholic defeated Wheeling Park in overtime in the varsity Class A opener for both teams before their schedules were stopped.

The Wheeling teams were supposed to play games against Fox Chapel, Greensburg Salem, Kiski Area, Norwin and Freeport during the two-month stoppage period, and those games are in the process of being rescheduled.

Morgantown started 0-2 in Class B with losses to Elizabeth Forward (Nov. 5) and Neshannock (Nov. 10). Six of Morgantown’s games will be rescheduled.

Mucha said a Pennsylvania government order about testing and quarantines when crossing the border will be addressed after Jan. 11’s tentative return of the West Virginia teams to competition.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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