Sewickley-area players thrilled to compete in PIHL girls league

Sunday, May 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM

Elizabeth Bowers is honored to be playing for the West team in the newly formed PIHL girls division.

The history-making season was supposed to start in 2020, but those plans were put on hold in the early days of the pandemic. Surely, the 15-year-old Bowers’ demeanor reflects each member of the West’s 16-player squad.

“I’m so glad the PIHL decided to put together a girls division,” said Bowers, a freshman forward. “I try to find teams with a skill level above mine so I can work up to their level. This PIHL team is a perfect mix of the two.

“Even though most of these girls hadn’t met before this team was formed, I think we work really well together. I’m so honored to be a part of this team and can’t wait to learn and watch it grow. I wouldn’t be surprised if our team continues to win in the future.”

Bowers lives in Bell Acres in Sewickley and has been home schooled since first grade. She is joined on the West team by three Quaker Valley students — Emily Reiner, a freshman forward, and twin sisters Lindsey Shurmatz, a sophomore defender, and Sydney Shurmatz, a sophomore forward.

“I haven’t spent a ton of time with the other Quaker Valley kids,” Bowers said, “but the little interaction I have had with Lindsey and Sydney has been really fun. They seem really nice.”

Bowers hails from a hockey family. She has two younger brothers and an older sister, and all four siblings have played the sport.

“I started hockey when I was 8,” Bowers said. “My parents (Nathan and Joy) put me in the Little Pens thinking my younger brother could have my old gear if I didn’t like it. However, the second my feet touched the ice, I began improving. I instantly took a liking to the sport and haven’t stopped since.”

Bowers has spent most of her life competing on the North Pittsburgh Wildcats girls travel team.

“Last year, I tried out for their co-ed boys travel team for North Pittsburgh,” she said. “I made the team and ended up with one of my favorite coaches (Dale Dankmeyer) along with an amazing group of boys and one girl (Marli Dankmeyer).

“I took my place as the team’s enforcer and hopped from defense to offense throughout the games, which gave me an opportunity to improve my skills in all five positions. Until that, I had always played left wing.”

Bowers has developed several other interests off the ice, such as playing the guitar and piano, painting, sketching and writing books.

“I also helped put together a watercolor paint class in Sewickley,” Bowers said, “and have an odd interest in collecting bottle caps.”

There’s been nothing odd about her skating abilities.

There’s also nothing unusual about the skating proficiency of Reiner, the youngest player on the team.

“I started playing hockey at RMU when I was 4,” Reiner said. “I wanted to play when I watched my cousin play hockey in high school for Moon. I’ve played for the Arctic Foxes, Pens Elite and I’m currently playing for SHAHA (South Hills Amateur Hockey Association).”

Reiner, 14, lives in Glenfield and is a freshman at Quaker Valley. She also is a goalie on the girls varsity lacrosse team at QV.

“When I first heard the news about the PIHL league starting, I was very excited and couldn’t wait for it to start,” Reiner said. “I think it’s a very unique experience playing in the league, and I was looking forward to girls hockey getting more recognition.

“I think it’s awesome to be a part of the inaugural season and helping pave the way for the younger generation of girls wanting to play hockey. And it’s very cool playing against all my friends on the other teams.

“I think we have a very skilled group of girls (on the West team). Everyone just clicked when we started playing together and we are all hoping to go far in the playoffs.”

The all-girls league isn’t a first-time experience for the Shurmatz sisters.

“I have played in an all-girls league for many years, but I’m glad this year I get to represent my high school,” Lindsey said. “I expect the West team to go far this season because of our great coaches and players. We work very hard, but we are having so much fun doing it.

“I think the PIHL has organized a great experience for all levels of girls hockey. The teams seem to be evenly matched and the games are exciting.”

Sydney added: “I think it’s fantastic that a girls league was created for this season. When I first heard about it, I wanted to sign up right away. I think this new league being created opens a bunch of new doors to girls in the hockey community.”

Lindsey and Sydney, both 15 and Sewickley residents, began playing hockey at a young age. Both were 5.

“My inspiration to play was my older sister (Abby) and cousin (Austin Murphy) when I used to go to their games,” Lindsey said. “The games were so exciting. I fell in love with the sport.”

Abby also provided a major influence on Sydney.

“It all started when my older sister started to play,” Sydney said. “Growing up, I wanted to be just like her. Years prior, I played on a couple different girls teams.”

The West team competes in the PIHL along with five other teams representing the North, East, Southwest, Central and Southeast.

Coached by Jeff Tindall, the West, with players from Freedom, Linsly, Montour, Quaker Valley, Trinity and West Allegheny, skated to an early 4-0 record with wins against the Central, 5-2, Southwest, 7-3, Southeast, 2-1, and East, 4-1.

“Playing in this league has been nothing but fun and exciting,” Sydney Shurmatz said, “and I hope we continue to succeed as a team.

“If you were hesitant to play in the PIHL girls league, do it next season. It has been a blast.”

More than 100 players signed up to play in the inaugural girls division.

The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation is a financial backer.

The season runs into June with games at Alpha Ice in Harmar, Ice Castle in Castle Shannon and the RMU Ice Complex on Neville Island.

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