PIHL Team of the Week: Dec. 1, 2019
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 10:25 PM
Mt. Lebanon played four games in two weeks to start the season, and six in October, which is more than most Class AAA teams.
Quite the adversity to start the year, though the schedule has relaxed, especially for a team that is almost completely new after a semifinal appearance last season.
The Blue Devils lost eight of their top nine scorers, and arguably the best player in the classification of last year, Wyatt George, the TribLIVE High School Sports Network’s AAA Player of the Year.
The struggles early on were apparent. A new team was trying to find its identity. It was working through the challenges.
Mt. Lebanon lost five of its first six games — losing by five goals three times in that stretch — but has rebounded.
The Blue Devils have won three of their past four, including scoring a season-high five goals twice in a row.
On Monday, they bested Cathedral Prep, 5-0, to pull into a tie for fifth in the Triple-A standings with nine points.
“As far as our team is concerned, Monday was us setting the pace, and we’ve been doing a much better job of coming together and all getting on the same page as far as everybody buying in to the system,” coach Gary Klapkowski said. “Over the last four games we’ve been outworking teams and that has led to scoring some more goals.”
The Blue Devils scored the first two goals of the game, at 1:35 and 3:20 of the first period. The first came from Marcus Simmonds and Ryan Gates. Brady Conrardy assisted on both, and Feno Monaco assisted on the second.
Mt. Lebanon added a goal in the second at 9:04 from Trevor Turkovich, before Sam Mitchell and Monaco scored goals at even strength in the third.
The quick start was significant for the Blue Devils, along with a 24-save shutout from Austin Martin.
“We’ve had some goaltending in the last four games,” Klapkowski said. “Everyone has stepped it up though and is a little more comfortable now. It was a high-energy start for us. Keeping the puck out of the net is what is springing us forward.”
The road to success will only continue in the on-going process that is the Blue Devils’ season. They return to the ice against Upper St. Clair on Dec. 9. The Blue Devils have only two more games before the winter break that spans the holidays, then they will play four games in January.
“This year has been a learning curve,” Klapkowski said. “It’s learning how to play at this level and understanding what makes us successful. Some teams had more practice time than we did, which I don’t prefer. Sometimes it takes some time for guys to buy in and to have the multiple things happen that need to for us to have success.”
• Upper St. Clair – The Panthers scored an 8-3 victory over Central Catholic on Tuesday, receiving five-plus-point efforts from three players
•Baldwin – The Highlanders won 2-1 against Meadville in overtime Monday
• South Park – The Eagles battled Fox Chapel on Monday, ending in a shootout. South Park came out on top by a final of 2-1, including a 47-save night from Shane Peremba