PIHL Notebook – 02/21/2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 11:12 AM

The PIHL regular season draws to a close this week, as the final positions will be set for the 2017 postseason. With just a few games remaining, this week’s edition will put a bow on the regular slate, before the focus shifts to playoff hockey.

Melting the Ice (the longest unbeaten streak in each classification)

AAA: North Allegheny (3-0-2) – Central Catholic had its nine-game winning streak snapped last week by Canon-McMillan, and while the Big Macs have enjoyed a four-game winning surge, it’s the Tigers who now hold claim to the longest unbeaten mark in the classification. North Allegheny has concluded it’s regular season with three wins and two ties in the final five tilts, including impressive victories against Peters Township and Erie Cathedral Prep. As a result, the Tigers secured the second seed in the AAA postseason, and they head into the playoffs with major momentum.

AA: Plum (7-0-1) – The Mustangs passed another test last night, as they edged the second-place team in the East Division, Hampton. Plum prevailed 4-2, which sets up the Mustangs to tie for the most points in the entire classification if they can defeat Bishop Canevin on Thursday in the season finale. Plum’s last setback came on Dec. 15 to Quaker Valley, but since that time, the Mustangs have defeated contenders such as Hampton twice, as well as Class AA-leading Moon, and also tied Mount Lebanon.

A: Franklin Regional (17-0-0) – The Panthers incredible season continued last Tuesday, when they bested Indiana, which is arguably the biggest challenger to Franklin Regional in Class A.  Although the defending champs allowed two goals in that contest, Franklin Regional has still only surrendered 12 goals the entire season, and has cemented itself as one of the stingiest defensive units in PIHL history. A major test remains for the Panthers, however, as their final regular-season tilt will be against surging Bishop McCort, which has won its last eight affairs. If host Franklin Regional triumphs in that clash on Wednesday, they will become the first PIHL team since Carrick in 2014-15 to finish with a perfect regular season.

D2: Meadville (19-0-1) – While the Bulldogs did not achieve perfection, they came darn close, having never tasted defeat in the 2016-17 campaign. Their finale, a 14-1 win against John Marshall, epitomized their dominance all season long. To that point, the Bulldogs goal differential finished at +175. Meadville finished seven points ahead of Carrick, which has a 10-game winning streak of its own, for the top position in Class B.

Under Review (weekly team spotlight)

Burrell – The return to the PIHL this season for the Buccaneers has exceeded expectations, as Burrell not only has qualified for the postseason, but the Bucs appear to be legitimate title contenders in D2.  The squad wrapped up the regular season on a five-game unbeaten streak, compiling 29 points, just one behind Kennedy Catholic for the top spot in Class C.

Burrell, which is comprised of players from five different school districts (Burrell, Valley, Apollo-Ridge, Penn Hills and Riverview), was led offensively by Tyler Stewart and Dylan Zelonka. Stewart produced 34 goals, the second best mark in the class, and 53 points, while Zelonka contributed 46 points. Three other players eclipsed the 20-point mark, including Dillon Butz Retzer, Gage Charlton and Bryce Schueler. In all, the Bucs had 10 players reach double figures in scoring.

Both netminders made key contribution for Burrell, with Andrew Burkett receiving the majority of the workload. He compiled a record of 8-2-3, with a goals against average of 2.73. Meanwhile, Colin Bistarky was sharp in his limited opportunities, as he won all five games in which he played, with a miniscule GAA of 1.69.

Under the guidance of coach Cam Zappi, some of the Bucs highlights this season include a decisive win against Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, two victories against Trinity, a pair of ties with Class C-leading Kennedy Catholic, and most notably, a tie with Meadville, the game which prevented Meadville from completing a perfect regular season.

The Bucs will get another shot at the Bulldogs in the playoffs, though, as the teams will meet in the first round. If Burrell can prevail in that contest, it will establish itself as the most unlikely success story in the entire PIHL this season.

Quotable (excerpt from a recent center stage)

“We’re a team that skates hard. We’re not all really skilled, so we’re grinders. We work hard every game and I think we’re going to build up some good momentum for the playoffs.”

Mount Lebanon goaltender Max Clouser, discussing his team’s momentum heading into the postseason after a 5-2 victory against Greater Latrobe. The entire interview can be viewed below:

Top-Shelf Trivia

Which PIHL team produced current NCAA players Luke Stork, Tim Shoup and Justin Selep? The answer will be revealed in next week’s notebook.

Last week’s trivia answer: Mars, in 2010 and 2011

Slapshots on Slate (upcoming MSA Sports broadcasts)

With the regular season concluding this week, the next broadcasts on “The Network” will be for the playoffs. Stay tuned for comprehensive postseason coverage of the PIHL postseason.

That’s all for this installment of the PIHL Notebook, but check back every Tuesday for the latest edition. Also, the Chatham University PIHL Power Play Show airs tomorrow night at 8 p.m., as hosts Josh Rowntree and Kevin Zielmanski welcome guests, including Central Valley forward Cameron Drake.

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