Pine-Richland hockey team ready to join crowded chase for Penguins Cup

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Sunday, October 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Last year, PIHL Class 3A featured a lot of parity with the top five teams separated by four points at the end of the regular season and No. 7 seed Mt. Lebanon making a run in the playoffs to the championship game.

Pine-Richland coach Jordan Yoklic expects more of the same this season.

The Rams were right in the mix as a semifinalist last year and have pieces in place to once again compete for a Penguins Cup.

Pine-Richland opens the season Thursday against Peters Township.

“We’re definitely excited to see how it all unfolds,” Yoklic said. “I know every team has their focus on a state championship, as they should. Every team is going to come to the rink with their best. We’ll be coming to the rink with a smile on our faces, ready to compete and win every shift.”

The Rams finished third in the standings last season and were upset by Mt. Lebanon in the semifinals. They return their second- and third-leading scorers in Alex Erlain and Carson Kalpakis.

Erlain scored 14 goals and registered 11 assists and Kalpakis had eight goals and 13 assists. With the graduation of double-digit scorers Charlie Mill, Dominic Desjardins and Samuel Perry, Erlain and Kalpakis will be counted upon to lead the forward group.

“They have the experience and the confidence within themselves, which feeds throughout the team,” Yoklic said. “It definitely provides momentum going into a new year. Overall, the team in general has a lot of juniors and seniors with a couple underclassmen mixed in. Collectively, it seems like a good group. We’re definitely excited about it.”

Defensively, the Rams return Esai Moore, Adan Bonvenuto and Jordan Spear, who suited up for almost every game a season ago. Moore is a threat offensively as well. He had 11 assists last year including five on the power play, which was the most on the team.

Daniel Mooney will be the starting goalie after backing up James Saber last year.

“Mooney helped contribute at varsity last year, so we’re excited to have him as our anchor in net,” Yoklic said. “With experience at forward, defense and goaltender, I think we should have a pretty competitive team.”

The Rams got some preseason action in at the St. Margaret’s Tournament at Alpha Ice Complex. They defeated Mars, 8-3, and Latrobe, 5-0, but were eliminated by Baldwin in a 4-3 shootout loss. Varsity newcomer Shawn Peacock had a hat trick in the Mars win and another newcomer, Jeremy Casper, scored three goals over the three games.

The tournament helped with ironing out line combinations and defensive pairs. It was nice to have St. Margaret’s back after it was canceled due to covid last year.

“In general, for the league, we were able to complete a full tournament, which was nice,” Yoklic said. “With covid, you never know what’s going to come next. We got what we needed out of it, even if we didn’t get the result we wanted. You obviously want to compete for the championship, but overall, it was a great effort from the team.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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