PIHL Team of the Week: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 5:41 PM


Last season, Pine-Richland won the Class AA Penguins Cup championship and a state title.

This season, the Rams moved up to Class AAA, where many thought they could have succeeded last season.

The Rams are doing exactly that. They’ve not played as many games as the rest of the classification — they’re the only team that has played nine — but that hasn’t stopped them from stacking up some wins and allowing the fewest goals in the classification.

Through nine outings, Pine-Richland is 6-2-1, and those 13 points place it fourth in the class. Upper St. Clair and Seneca Valley have 14 points with an extra game in hand. The classification’s first-place team, North Allegheny, is 10-1-1. Until Monday, the Tigers hadn’t lost in regulation.

That changed thanks to Pine-Richland, which defeated North Allegheny, 4-1, on Monday, then picked up a second win Thursday, 8-1, versus Bethel Park.

The two-win week, including a victory over the first-place team, is grounds for Pine-Richland being the TribLIVE High School Sports Network Team of the Week in the PIHL.

The game against North Allegheny didn’t look pretty the entire time. In fact, the first period was scoreless until the Tigers’ Tyler Sippel scored late on a power play . Nobody scored in the second period, but Pine-Richland poured on four in the third period.

“The North Allegheny win was definitely a good outcome for us coming off the Peters game, (a 4-1 loss) that wasn’t our best effort,” Rams coach Jordan Yoklic said. “It was a good game between two hard-working teams. The difference was getting into those ugly zones, getting the puck deep and going from there. We had good puck control, tried to simplify things and keep doing what we were doing in the first two periods.”

Yoklic said the win was well earned — like every win in Class AAA.

Esia Moore scored the first goal 33 seconds into the third. At 6:10, Alex Erlain scored the winning goal. Charles Mill and Lucas Enos also scored.

Danny Stauffer and the defense were good, too. Stauffer, last year’s TribHSSN Class AA goalie of the year, stopped 12 shots as the Rams successfully kept the puck out of the defensive zone.

“Danny is the anchor back there, so everything starts with him and we build our way out,” Yoklic said. “At the end of the day you want to make his life as easy as possible. We want to start by keeping it out of there but if it is in there, we want to get it out as quickly as possible. They clear and allow him to see the puck and make saves, and even if it’s not the case, we have confidence he’ll make the tough saves.”

That carried into the game Thursday against the Blackhawks. Pine-Richland scored the first goal in the first period, just 1:21 in, on a shot by Mill. Connor Salsbury, Mill, Richard Wild and Samuel Perry added from there. Wild scored the fourth, fifth and sixth goals before Perry’s two were sandwiched by the lone Bethel Park goal, at 16:04 of the third period.

“They had beaten us in the St. Margaret’s tournament, so we wanted to show what Pine-Richland could do and keep the momentum rolling. Just getting a win against North Allegheny wasn’t good enough. We wanted to stack,” Yoklic said. “It’s a goal of ours to have a good start, and in Triple-A, any team can beat anybody on any given night. If you can have that start, that’s big.”

The Rams only having played nine games isn’t a huge deal to Yoklic, in fact, the team is spinning it into a positive. They’ll play seven times in the month of February, which Yoklic says will help prepare them for the playoffs.

He said the biggest key will be to continue to simplify things as he sees his team really start to “jell together” in these next few weeks.

Pine-Richland is back in action Monday against Seneca Valley in the team’s final PIHL contest of the calendar year.

Honorable Mentions:

• Thomas Jefferson — It seems the Jaguars find their way into these articles every week. They’re here again, with another sound win. Thomas Jefferson ran past fellow first-place-team Bishop McCort, shutting out the Crushers, 7-0.

• Hempfield — The Spartans had the Player of the Week in Matt Traczynski and several other candidates and could very well have been team of the week. Hempfield won twice: 9-1 over Plum and 9-2 over Penn-Trafford.

• Greensburg Salem — The Golden Lions managed two wins as well this week, winning 5-3 over Fox Chapel on Tuesday and 6-3 versus Blackhawk on Thursday

• Avonworth — Monday, Avonworth bested Elizabeth Forward by a final of 5-4, then Thursday it beat Connellsville, 2-1

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