PIHL set to launch 4-team girls division in May

Saturday, February 1, 2020 | 6:18 PM

In the PIHL, there are several girls who don varsity uniforms on a nightly basis, and there have been plenty of instances when girls have succeeded playing among the boys.

About a decade ago,Class AAA power North Allegheny had Lindsay Holdcroft in goal. As a junior, she earned All-Star honors and was a two-time team MVP for the Tigers. She went on to play on the women’s team at Dartmouth.

Plum’s Taylor Cestra earned an All-Star bid. In 2012, Quaker Valley had five girls on the boys team, including two at the varsity level. That year, 48 organizations reported they had at least one female player within their programs.

When Indiana goalie Madison Barker started the 2018 PIHL Class A All-Star Game, she was believed have been the first female to start a Penguins Cup game and a league All-Star Game. She had helped Indiana to a Penguins Cup final in 2016-17.

Until her graduation in 2018, Carrick’s Olivia Cindrich was an assistant captain, one of two females wearing the “A” in the 2017-18 season. The other was Brooke McArdle at Wheeling Park.

Katie Wilbert had a few points in a varsity game for Peters Township earlier this season, joining her three brothers on the ice.

But there has never been a girls-only division in the PIHL. Until now.

Announced by the league earlier this month, the PIHL will have a girls division in “G1” that will begin play in spring 2020. The league’s commissioner, John Mucha, said the division has been long overdue.

“Last year at the USA Hockey winter meetings, they talked about finding ways to expand certain groups to get more people involved in hockey,” Mucha said. “We have a great opportunity here in the Pittsburgh area with the growing amount of girls playing club hockey and at different levels in the PIHL to start something unique. When you talk to the girls, the opportunity to play together is what is really exciting.”

The league has a co-op division (Class B), which allows programs and schools that might not have enough players to have a full roster to combine into one organization.

It’s with that idea G1 will begin play. Mucha said the league hopes to have four teams, based on region on the ice in May.

The idea, Mucha said, is to take the girls who have registered for the league with the PIHL, place them on teams, bring in good coaches, have practices and then, obviously, play.

“We’re going to play probably six or so games in the regular season and then the playoffs,” Mucha said. “We’re going to treat it as similar to the boys as possible. We hope to play the championships at the Lemieux Center.”

The league started accepting registration forms a few weeks ago. Mucha said the response has been great.

“We’ve had calls from the Johnstown and Erie areas asking if they can send players to play in this division,” he said.

According to a PIHL press release the league, regular-season games are planned to begin May 9, with the championship game June 14. The fee will be no more than $700 per player, which includes regular-season, playoff and championship games, as well as practices and uniforms.

But for Mucha, it goes back to the idea of expanding the game and getting more investment in hockey in the area.

“This is being done more to give the girls a chance to have their own teams,” Mucha said. “These kids, when they get a chance to play together, they get a chance to bond and develop lifetime friendships, and that’s exciting.”

The hope is to add a girls’ state championship in the future.

“The one thing that high-school hockey brings is a great environment,” Mucha said. “We want the girls to have the same thing as the boys, even beyond the chances they already have.”

Michael Alkire, who is the vice president North for the league, has done a lot of work and is tracking registration for the league, Mucha said.

The league also wants to do a survey at the end of the season and see how it can improve the division for next year.

“We’re very excited about it and excited to see how things unfold,” Mucha said.

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