PIHL notebook: Hempfield surging in Class AA

Sunday, February 4, 2018 | 6:48 PM

The stretch run officially has arrived for the PIHL regular season. Here's a glance at which teams are riding momentum, as well as a closer look at a team poised to make a deep run in Class AA.

Melting the ice

A look at teams with the longest winning streaks in each class:

Class AAA: Butler (three games). The Golden Tornado have been among the most inconsistent teams in the classification. Before Butler's current streak, the team suffered five straight setbacks. The turnaround began Jan. 15 with an impressive win against North Allegheny, and the Golden Tornado followed with decisive triumphs against Bethel Park and Central Catholic. The Golden Tornado are in sixth place with 17 points despite leading the classification with 69 goals. Butler has two games left, with the next one Feb. 12 at home against first-place Peters Township.

Class AA: Pine-Richland (four games). After dropping down in classification, the Rams were expected to improve significantly this season. Although it took time, Pine-Richland has established itself among the elite squads in Class AA. In the past month, the Rams bested Quaker Valley, Montour, Hampton, and most recently, North Hills. In those contests, Pine-Richland has scored 29 goals. Consequently, the Rams sit second in the North/West Division with 21 points and boast a plus-24 goal margin. Next up is a showdown against first-place Armstrong on Thursday at the Belmont Ice Complex.

Class A: Bishop McCort (17 games). Another week, another win for the Crimson Crushers, who remain undefeated. Bishop McCort's 34 points are tops in Class A, with West Allegheny the closest at four points behind. On Thursday, Bishop McCort walloped Greensburg Central Catholic, 14-5, establishing its highest scoring output this season. The next game likely will be a much stiffer test, however, as Bishop McCort hosts one-loss Meadville in a highly anticipated showdown Tuesday.

Division 2: Moon, Burrell and Connellsville (three games). All three squads cruised to wins last week. Moon defeated Kennedy Catholic, 4-1, Burrell routed Trinity, 8-3, and Connellsville eased past Carrick, 11-1. Moon still leads the classification with 28 points, Burrell is tied for second with 22 points, and Connellsville sits fourth with 20 points. Next up, the Tigers host Central Valley on Thursday, and Burrell and Connellsville meet Tuesday at the Ice Mine.

Team spotlight

Hempfield: After falling in the Class AA semifinals last winter, the Spartans have the ingredients to go even further this season. Hempfield is tied for second in the South/East Division with 20 points, but the Spartans have a game in hand on first-place Latrobe. Hempfield has outscored its opponents by 10 goals and has been one of the most disciplined teams in Class AA with 138 penalty minutes.

Forward Jared Gerger has been the top scoring option with 18 goals and 13 assists. The second-leading scorer, Dominic Schimizzi, has 16 goals and two assists. A pair of defensemen, Trent Gray and Kane Mills, rank third and fourth in scoring, and Matthew Bartus, Nicholas Koziara, and Jacob Anderson also are in double figures in scoring.

Nolan Ferree has played in all 15 of the team's games in goal, boasting a 9-4 record with a 3.31 goals-against average, an .891 save percentage and one shutout.

Coach Dennis Zeravica's team has four games left in the regular season, including a key showdown with Franklin Regional on Monday at the Kirk S. Nevin Arena. Hempfield also visits Shaler Area and Pine-Richland before finishing the season at home against Baldwin.

On the air

Tune in at 8 p.m. Wednesday to the PIHL Power Play Show on the TribLive High School Sports Network. Hosts Josh Rowntree and Kevin Zielmanski will interview players and coaches, and also discuss the playoff picture and all of the latest happenings around the league.

Sean Meyers is a freelance writer.

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