PIHL still hoping to play last 6 playoff games, crown champions

Friday, May 8, 2020 | 6:30 PM

Still wanting and waiting, the PIHL is holding out hope it can finish its postseason. But numerous factors must fall into place for high school hockey teams to return to the ice.

League commissioner John Mucha said Friday the six varsity playoff games — five Penguin Cup games that include the Class AA and A championships, along with the Class B final — remain at a wait-and-see stage.

The conclusion of the playoffs has been suspended indefinitely for about a month due to coronavirus concerns. Initially, the league said no action for teams for two weeks, but that order quickly expanded.

As a result, it’s been a long, unnerving wait for teams. Take Latrobe and Baldwin. They were scheduled to play the Class AA title game on March 16 — 54 days ago.

“A lot has to happen, but we want to play,” Mucha said. “The easiest thing to do would be to pack it in and not do it, but we’re thinking about the kids who still want to play and should get that chance.

“We’re hoping to have a decision made soon.”

Mucha said the games still could happen, even if it means no fans in attendance.

A key step will be Gov. Tom Wolf converting counties in PIHL territory to phase green of his three-tiered plan to reopen the state.

Wolf said Friday all counties in the Southwest region of Pennsylvania, with the exception of Beaver County, can move to the yellow phase on May 15, meaning the stay-at-home order will be lifted and retail businesses can open under safety guidelines.

While hockey is not a sanctioned sport by the PIAA, Mucha said the PIHL has been following the association’s steps.

“High schools are able to being workouts again July 1, so we have looked at that,” Mucha said. “Kids are going to graduate and move on, and others might be involved in a (fall) sport. Once a kid graduates, then you can get into eligibility issues. So we may have to work something out there.

“We want the kids to have a chance to play, but we understand people go on vacations and things like that. We certainly won’t force anyone to play.”

Mucha said USA Hockey has set a tentative date of June 15 to return to the ice, which also could affect the PIHL’s decision.

Game sites also would need to be ironed out. Mucha said most arenas are closed, but some have fresh ice and could be ready quickly.

The other suspended games include the Class A final between Thomas Jefferson and Indiana; the Class B final between Carrick and Ringgold; and the Class AAA semifinals (North Allegheny vs.Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley vs. Peters Township). The sixth game in question would be the Class AAA final.

The Pennsylvania Cup, which matches the Penguins Cup winners against Flyers Cup champions from out east, has been canceled.

PIHL junior varsity and middle school tournaments, and a girls’ new mini-season, also were dropped.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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