PIHL Notebook – 01/102017

Tuesday, January 10, 2017 | 1:29 PM

This edition of the PIHL Notebook is jam packed, as each and every game seemingly takes on more importance with the playoffs on the horizon. It will be a particularly busy month of hockey coverage for the MSA Sports Network, as January features a bevy of audio and video broadcasts of marquee matchups. Here is all the noteworthy news around the PIHL for this week.

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

AAA: Erie Cathedral Prep (4-0-1) – On the heels of winning the 2016 Penguins Cup in the highest classification, the Ramblers might have experienced a cup hangover to start this campaign. Recently, though, no team has been hotter, as ECP has been unblemished since mid-November. Courtesy of a tie followed by four straight victories against Central Catholic, Bethel Park, Peters Township and Canon-McMillan, the Ramblers have ascended to sixth place in the standings.

AA: Moon (6-0-1) – While Mount Lebanon lost last night to snap the Blue Devils’ lengthy winning surge, Moon now holds the distinction with a seven-game unbeaten mark. The Tigers have played in just 11 contests, the fewest in the classification, but Moon has not tasted defeat since October. Of particular note, the Tigers have won three games by one goal during the streak, including the most recent tilt, a 3-2 triumph against Hempfield last Thursday.

A: Franklin Regional (13-0-0) – Not only have the Panthers been unbeaten all season, but Franklin Regional has posted a historically great campaign to this point. Since the holiday break, Franklin Regional has defeated Freeport and Norwin by a combined margin of 14-0, and the Panthers have yielded just six goals all season. Although the Panthers conclude their slate against a pair of talented teams in Kiski Area and Indiana, Franklin Regional has shown no weaknesses thus far, and could be poised to achieve an undefeated regular season.

D2: Meadville (15-0-0) – Much like Franklin Regional, the Bulldogs have been dominant from the start of the season. Aside from a 5-4 decision against Carrick, none of the other Meadville victories were ever in doubt, and the team’s offense appears to be getting even more potent. The Bulldogs have scored 13 or more goals in each of their past four wins. A key matchup against unbeaten Kennedy Catholic (11-0-2) of Class C looms later this month, though.

Under Review (weekly team spotlight)

Central Catholic – Last season, the Vikings finished the regular season in a tie for second in Class AAA, trailing only North Allegheny. With a little more than a month remaining in this campaign, the Vikings current sit in the same position, just one point behind the Tigers. In its most recent outing, Central Catholic edged North Allegheny, 4-3, the Vikings’ third-consecutive W.

Offense has been the biggest key to the Vikings’ success to this point, as Central Catholic has netted a class-leading 61 goals. Ryan Kingerski has lit the lamp 11 times, while Ryan Haag has contributed 10 goals in just nine games. Kingerski leads the squad with 24 points, while Jake Tepe and Haag have added 18 and 17 points, respectively. Ethan Farber and Anthony Purdue have also chipped in offensively, with each averaging a point per contest.

Nathaniel Cava has manned the crease, posting an 8-2 record with impressive numbers. His goals against average is 2.94, while he’s stopped .909 percent of the shots he’s faced.

With only 12 games played, the Vikings have a game or more in hand over many of their adversaries in AAA. They will be busy over the next six days, though, with matchups looming against Pine-Richland, Bethel Park and Seneca Valley. Central Catholic appears poised to not only achieve a strong finish to the regular slate, but to take the next step from last year, and advance to the Penguins Cup Championship.

Top-Shelf Trivia

Which PIHL teams was MSA Sports broadcaster Kevin Zielmanski the head coach for during his tenure on the bench? The answer will be revealed in next week’s notebook.

Last week’s trivia answer: Serra Catholic’s Roman Kraemer.

Slapshots on Slate: (upcoming MSA Sports broadcasts)

Thursday, Jan. 12: Chartiers Valley at Baldwin at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon at 6:40 with Steve Nagler and Kyle Dawson – First place in the Class A West Division could be decided, as the Colts are currently tied atop the standings with 16 points, while the Highlanders are just one point back, with a game in hand. When these teams met on Oct. 10, Baldwin prevailed with a 4-3 road victory.

Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Bethel Park at the Bethel Park YMCA at 9 with Sean Meyers and Lou Rood – As mentioned in the team spotlight, the Vikings are playing well entering this showdown, while the Black Hawks sit in fifth in Class AAA. Bethel Park will have something to prove in this rematch, however, as the Vikings steamrolled to an 8-1 win in the prior meeting in October.

Moon at Quaker Valley at the Baierl Ice Complex in Warrendale at 9 with Bob Orkwis and Cory Campano – Just prior to the holiday break, the Quakers had their lengthy winning streak snapped. Moon, meanwhile, is in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak, which has allowed the Tigers to surpass QV by a single point in the standings. The matchup will mark the first meeting between the teams this season.

Monday, Jan. 16: Thomas Jefferson at Sewickley Academy (video) at 7:15 and Chartiers Valley at Montour (video) at 9:15, both at the RMU Island Sports Complex with Bob Orkwis and Mark Schaas – The Jaguars remain in the hunt in the Class A West, as there’s a logjam atop the division. TJ’s 14 points ties the Jags with Montour for the fourth spot, but just two points out of first. Conversely, Sewickley Academy needs a win desperately, as the Panthers are currently outside of the playoff picture, with 10 points. The initial encounter between the teams was a high-scoring affair, an 8-4 Jaguars victory. Meanwhile, in the nightcap, the Colts aim to remain atop the division, while the Spartans can possibly create some separation with a W, as they’re currently tied with TJ in fourth. The first tilt went in favor of the Colts, 4-2.

Fan choice (Canon-McMillan at Butler, Pittsburgh Central Catholic at Seneca Valley, Hampton at Plum or Wheeling Park at Wheeling Central Catholic) with Sean Meyers and Jake Holmes – Voting for the spotlight game is open until Friday, Jan. 13 at noon.

That’s all for this edition of the PIHL Notebook, but check back every Tuesday for the latest installment. Also, the Chatham University PIHL Power Play Show tomorrow will feature interviews with Carrick coach Matt Maurice and Central Catholic player Nathaniel Cava. Josh Rowntree and Kevin Zielmanski host the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Additionally, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Chatham University Power Play Show will exclusively reveal the PIHL All-Star rosters for the game to be played on Jan. 29 at the Alpha Ice Complex in Harmarville.

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