Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week — Nov. 18, 2019
Monday, November 18, 2019 | 9:53 PM
One sign of a good program is sustaining success even after taking hits from graduation, and Thomas Jefferson has managed just that.
The Jaguars, this week’s Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week, have run their way through Class A at the start of the 2019-20 season. Their 14 points are the most in the classification through Sunday, Nov. 17.
Thomas Jefferson lost a handful of top players from last year’s playoff qualifier, a team that placed second in its division and made a semifinal appearance in the Class A Penguins Cup playoffs. The losses to graduation included Hayden Hintemeyer, one of the best players in program history, who was the Jags’ top scorer last year.
But despite the losses, the Jaguars are off to a 7-1 start, which includes two wins this past week.
“We’ve had guys along for the ride for a few years now. The junior class is really solid and we added a few guys that haven’t played before that have helped,” said Jaguars coach Bill Crousey. “I think our depth and playing hockey the right way have been the biggest keys to our success this year. We do a lot of things that maybe go unnoticed by some people, but those things pay dividends on the ice.”
On Monday, Thomas Jefferson did battle with Indiana and got off to a hot start. En route to outshooting Indiana 52-33, the Jaguars scored the first six goals of the contest before Indiana scored the next three. Thomas Jefferson scored the next two before Indiana scored the final goal, and the Jaguars won, 8-4.
Will O’Brien scored three goals and assisted on another. Five Jaguars had three points or more.
The four goals are the most the Jaguars have allowed in a game, but it was also the fourth time, before Thursday’s game, that they had scored at least seven goals in a contest.
“We came out really strong and really fast and knocked them back on their heels,” Crousey said. “The second and third period got a lot like old-school hockey with a lot of hitting going on and it slowed the game down a little bit, giving them the chance to get back in it a bit. We got out of rhythm, but eventually got it back and finished it off.”
Crousey added: “We’ve been playing pretty much a solid game every game, but the push by them was a good learning experience for us. We’ve got to get people to the net. It seems like every team has a good goaltender.”
The high amount of shots on goal was a pattern as well, but Crousey said his team isn’t just settling for a quantity of shots. Instead, they’re trying to “retrain the brain” to not just come down the wings and shoot, rather to find good scoring chances, which his team, he said, has had a lot of.
The Jaguars, three nights later, ran past Blackhawk 12-2, with eight players notching multi-point nights. O’Brien had another good night, leading the scorers again, notching another hat trick and two more assists. Riley Holzer added two goals, as did Nick Stock.
Thomas Jefferson scored six times in the first period, and then the final six goals of the game.
It was another 50-shot night for the Jags, who outshot a depleted Blackhawk team, in terms of roster size, 50-13.
“We were looking to start fast and we did it again,” Crousey said. “The shots were going in early, and we were able to wear them down a bit with our three, sometimes four lines.”
O’Brien was in consideration for this week’s player of the week honors, as a result of his six-goal, three-helper week. He’s got 25 points to lead the Jaguars (14 goals, 11 assists).
“He’s worked hard to become a better player and in the past, he may have had like three good games in a row and then one where he wasn’t as noticeable, but consistency has been the biggest thing for him this year,” said Crousey. “It seems like every game he’s near the top of the scoresheet.”
O’Brien leads the classification in scoring.
The Jaguars return to action Thursday against Greensburg Salem at 7 p.m. at the Ice Castle Arena.
• Cathedral Prep — The Ramblers were outshot 47-33 by Mt. Lebanon on Tuesday, but defeated the Blue Devils in a shootout, 3-2.
• Hempfield — The Spartans recorded 49 shots on goal to just eight for Moon in a 5-1 win Monday.
• Franklin Regional — The Panthers continued their early season roll with a 7-2 win over Meadville on Tuesday.
• Blackhawk — The Cougars’ third win of the year came with a 9-3 victory over Wheeling Catholic, in which depth scoring was solid.
• North Catholic — The return to the league couldn’t be more successful so far, as the Trojans won 2-1 over South Park in a tight contest to stay unbeaten.