PIHL Notebook – New 2014-2015 Alignment

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Monday, October 6, 2014 | 2:29 PM


Welcome to a special edition of “PIHL Notebook.” As documented earlier this fall, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League is under new leadership. A new board of governors was already in place last season, and now with a new commissioner in former North Allegheny head coach Jim Black, the powers that be are setting out to change things with an eye toward restoring some competitive balance across the league.

Not since the formation of the Open Class has such a dramatic shift occurred. Sure, some notable programs have joined or left the league over the years. Some have moved up or down a classification. But this goes well beyond that, and it will be an ever-shifting situation going forward.

The stated objectives, directly from the official presentation to the board of governors are:

  1. Increase game competition
  2. Improve the on-ice product
  3. Place teams where they have potential to compete
  4. Properly structure the Open Division
  5. Minimize the human factor in team placement

Lofty goals, so how exactly have they attacked this? Traditionally, of course, alignment in high school sports is decided exclusively by enrollment. One advantage the PIHL has is they operate independently of WPIAL and PIAA rules, so this is something the league has always been free to determine how they see fit. Enrollment has always played a role, and will continue to be the largest variable, but the new formula being used takes another major and quantifiable factor into account. Specifically, winning percentage for a program over a three-year span will be calculated with the most recent PIAA enrollment numbers using a weighted system.

The math will work like this. Take the winning percentage of a program from the past three seasons, multiplying all three by a weighted number depending on classification (1000 for Class AAA; 600 for Class AA; 360 for Class A; and 216 for the Open Class). Take the three totals from that multiplication, add them together along with the current PIAA male enrollment figure for that school, and the points accumulated are used to rank each program.

Going forward, this will be how classifications for each season are determined. The teams with the most points will compete in Class AAA, with the cutoff occurring at a “competitively appropriate” point in the ranking list, and so forth. The long-term goal is to have evenly divided classifications. One noteworthy factor for this inaugural season, however, is no teams in the pure classifications were asked to move up. That will begin with the 2015-16 campaign.

The Open Class, though, is another story. For one, thing, it will no longer be called that. Instead, the three major classifications will make up “Varsity Division I” while the former Open Class will become “Varsity Division II,” divided into a Class B & Class C. A complete snapshot of the new alignment appears below.

Within this Division II, no more pure teams are allowed to compete there. Once a team achieves pure status (12 or more players from the same school with possible exemption if no goaltender is part of that group), they must move up into one of the main classifications. With that in mind, six teams are moving up this season. Baldwin joins Class AA while Gateway, Greensburg Salem, Hempfield, Keystone Oaks and Wheeling Park move up to Class A.

Some side notes. A team can still ask to play up. Request to move down will also be considered, though tougher to grant if the math is not in that program’s favor. Brand new programs will begin in Class A assuming they have pure status.

Just how imbalanced was the competition last season? In Class AAA, 36% of games played were decided by five goals or more, but that was nothing compared to 45% in Class AA, 47% in Class A and 57% in the Open Class. Will the new alignment reduce those numbers? The thinking here is that it can, and hopefully will, with the competition geared to become increasingly stiff in the years ahead.

Without further ado, we present the complete 2014-15 PIHL varsity alignment, with teams listed in alphabetical order. We will go into more detail regarding some of the nuances in our class-by-class preview articles, with one running each Monday in October.

VARSITY DIVISION I – CLASS AAA:

Bethel Park

Butler

Canon-McMillan

Mount Lebanon

North Allegheny

Penn-Trafford

Peters Township

Pine-Richland

Pittsburgh Central Catholic

Seneca Valley

State College

Upper St. Clair

VARSITY DIVISION I – CLASS AA:

Western Conference:

Badlwin

Bishop Canevin

Chartiers Valley

Erie Cathedral Prep

Moon

North Hills

West Allegheny

Eastern Conference:

Armstrong

Fox Chapel

Hampton

Latrobe

Norwin

Plum

Shaler

VARSITY DIVISION I – CLASS A:

Tier I – Western Conference:

Mars

McDowell

Montour

Quaker Valley

Thomas Jefferson

Tier I – Eastern Conference:

Deer Lakes

Freeport

Gateway

Hempfield

Westmont Hilltop

Tier II – Western Conference:

Keystone Oaks

South Fayette

South Park

Wheeling Park

Tier II – Eastern Conference:

Bishop McCort

Franklin Regional

Greensburg Salem

Serra Catholic

VARSITY DIVISION II – CLASS B:

Beaver

Blackhawk

Harbor Creek

Indiana

Meadville

Morgantown

Penn-Trafford #2

Peters Township #2

Upper St. Clair #2

VARSITY DIVISION II – CLASS C

Western Conference:

Carrick

Central Valley

Elizabeth Forward

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Eastern Conference:

John Marshall

Ringgold

Trinity

Wheeling Central Catholic

That wraps up this special edition of “PIHL Notebook,” but check back next Monday as we continue the season preview goodness. Your home for the 2015 Penguins Cup Playoffs is the MSA Sports Network!

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High school roundup for Nov. 23, 2020: Chartiers Valley teammates have 5-point nights
PIHL standings through Nov. 22, 2020
PIHL juggling schedule amid covid restrictions
Hampton hockey making dramatic improvements

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