Trib HSSN PIHL team of the week — Dec. 23, 2019
Tuesday, December 24, 2019 | 2:48 PM
The Montour Spartans didn’t get off to the start they hoped for in the 2019-20 PIHL regular season.
They lost three of their first four games after winning their opener against Armstrong. That span included a 9-1 loss to Baldwin and a 7-2 loss to West Allegheny. The other was a loss 5-4 to South Fayette.
Take that for what it was.
The Spartans were coming into the season fresh off their first PIHL Penguins Cup championship, which came in Class A, and a loss in the Pennsylvania Cup title game, a loss they weren’t overly disappointed in, as head coach Clay Shell said it helped to build the program.
Don’t forget what Montour lost from that team either.
Last season, Montour led the PIHL in goals scored — and it wasn’t close — with 181. The Spartans also boasted one of the best defenses in the league. Gone from that team are Ritchy Froehlich, who led Class A with 80 points and was the Trib’s Class A player of the year; Ryan Eisel, who had 48 points; Ethan Diffendal, who had 33 points as a defenseman; and Joseph Bickel (30 points), among others.
But, in what has become a common theme among top programs in high school hockey as of late, Montour really hasn’t missed a big beat. After the sluggish start, the Spartans started winning, and winning a lot. They’ve won seven of their last eight games, including a 7-5 victory over then 8-1 Franklin Regional this past Tuesday night.
The Spartans are now in a tie for first place with Baldwin and West Allegheny in the Class AA Southwest Division with 16 points, and are this week’s PIHL Team of the Week.
It took quite the effort for the Spartans to win against Franklin Regional, too.
The Panthers netted the first three goals of the game and the only three in the first period. Alex Noll, Zach Abdallah and Luke Beatty did the scoring.
Dusty Geregach scored from Ethan Casperson and Michael Felsing just 59 seconds into the second, and the Spartans — other than a goal at 12:12 for Kevin Cakanac of the Panthers — clamped down and ran away from there.
Geregach scored a second goal, Felsing scored the next three, Geregach completed his hat trick to push the Spartans ahead, 6-4.
Geregach’s second was on the power play, while Felsing scored at even strength, then on the advantage, then shorthanded. Geregach’s third was also a power-play goal.
In all, Montour was 3 for 4 with the man advantage.
Preston Muha scored to make it 7-4 about halfway into the third. Cakanac scored to pull the Panthers back within two at 12:52, but they’d get no closer.
Felsing assisted on two goals in addition to the three he scored, while Muha added an assist as well for a multi-point night.
The victorious Spartans handed the Panthers only their second loss of the season.
The tricks of the trade really haven’t changed for Montour. It relies on a lot of scoring.
During their stretch of seven wins in eight outings, the Spartans have scored at least three goals in every game, even the loss. The Spartans have tallied seven goals four times in the stretch and six in another.
They get a ton of that production from Geregach and Felsing. Felsing leads the team with 37 points, while Geregach has 28. Anthony Migliozzi and Tommy Gollob are the other two in the double digits with 18 and 14, respectively.
They’ve also gotten good goaltending for the most part, between Anthony Reinholt and Zack O’Malley.
The Spartans have just six games left on the regular-season slate and won’t play again until Jan. 13. They’ll also have a break between games Jan. 30 and Feb. 17.
Of their six remaining opponents, two have better-than-.500 records at this juncture. Those are Plum (6-5), which is in first in the Northeast Division, and Penn-Trafford (5-4), which is in fourth in the Southeast. The top two teams in each of the four divisions make the postseason.
Montour steps back out on the ice for league play Jan. 13 against Hampton.
• Canon-McMillan — The Big Macs handed the first-place North Allegheny Tigers their second regulation loss of the season Tuesday night in Class AAA action. The win for the Big Macs was their seventh, giving them 14 points and putting them in a tie for third place with three others in the classification. In the game, Mario Eafrati stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced, while one of two goals for Logan Ford was the game winner.
• South Park — The Eagles defeated Norwin, the second-place team in the Southeast Division of Class A, 5-2 Monday night. That win allowed South Park to move into a temporary tie for first in the Southwest Division before Thomas Jefferson, now 12-1 with 24 points, won again the next night against Wheeling Catholic, 11-2. TJ does hold a win over South Park, 7-1, on Oct. 14, and the two teams will meet again Jan. 27, which will likely be for, at the minimum, a tie atop the division.
• Chartiers Valley — The Colts won twice this past week to round out the 2019 portion of the schedule, defeating Freeport, 7-3, Monday and Beaver by a final of 6-1 on Thursday.
More High School Hockey• PIHL standings through March 7, 2021
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• Gordon, McEnroe lead the way for Sewickley Academy hockey
• Shaler hockey shifts focus to development after missing playoffs
• Franklin Regional notebook: Dibert, Solomon have state title aspirations