Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Week ending Feb. 2, 2020

Sunday, February 2, 2020 | 8:24 PM

The biggest games on the schedule for North Hills are still ahead, and the Indians know that.

After all, the Indians play in what has been one of the best divisions in the PIHL, if not the best.

Class A’s Southwest Division boasts Thomas Jefferson (30 points), South Park (26 points), North Hills (21 points) and Chartiers Valley (19 points). The point totals are as of Sunday.

All four of those teams would be in first place by point total in the Northeast Division. In the Northwest, leader North Catholic has 27 points and second-place Blackhawk has nine. The Southeast is the next closest with two teams having 25 points and another with 20.

So it is safe to say the two games this past week, with the top two in each division set to make the postseason, were important for North Hills. So are the next four: Thomas Jefferson, Norwin, Chartiers Valley and South Park.

The Indians need wins, and they started with two last week, and are this week’s PIHL Team of the Week.

North Hills started the week with a 5-0 win over North Hills in which they scored 38 seconds in to take a lead they would never surrender. In fact, thanks to Ethan Isaly’s 26-save shutout, that goal was all the Indians needed.

Freeport was a game, being in the division we’re in, that we knew we had to play our game in and get a win. We did for the first few minutes then got a little loose,” coach Kevin Pawlos said. “We had a big lead going into the break and thought we could take a step back and wear them out. We played a better game in all three zones in the third.”

Pawlos continued saying the quick start was important.

“That’s something we’ve struggled with a little bit throughout the year. Getting that one early was huge,” he said.

The goal came from Brandon Bliss, unassisted. Patrick Megahan and Owen Sroka scored in the second, and Derek Pietrzyk scored twice in the four-goal second.

Pawlos wasn’t surprised by Isaly’s performance.

“It’s amazing to watch him get in between the pipes every night, and you know what you’re getting every night,” Pawlos said. “He does such a great job and is so square to the puck. On cetain nights, it’s almost like he’s impenetrable.

After that win, North Hills’ focus shifted to a Thursday game against Blackhawk, and the Indians won again.

“They’ve got some good players even though they don’t have a ton of points,” Pawlos said. “We figured if we could get shots on net, we could control the pace of the game. We were able to get pucks deep and play the possession game, and it worked.”

North Hills scored the first goal again, coming at 5 minutes, 21 seconds from Pietrzyk. Blackhawk scored the next two before North Hills tied the score on a goal from Timmy Marker with just 46 seconds left in the first 17 minutes.

Teddy Kiger, Roman Rennebeck and Megahan scored the final three goals for the Indians, giving them a 5-2 victory.

Tyler Manfred stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced.

“We’ve got two capable goaltenders, and that’s been huge for us this year,” Pawlos said. “Tyler started a bit shaky maybe, but once he let the game come to him, he was really solid. You could tell by what he was doing that he was comfortable. He came up big for us.”

Now the going gets tough for the Indians. Trailing second-place South Park by five points, North Hills has four games left, including one with South Park. But the big one is Monday night against first-place Thomas Jefferson.

“Our hardest games are in front of us. There’s no doubt that we may be in the toughest division in the whole league,” Pawlos said. “We’ve been trying to fine tune things and not create bad habits. We’re aware of what is ahead and what we need to do, and I think the guys are ready. They know what’s coming.”

Monday’s puck drop against Thomas Jefferson is 9:15 p.m.

Honorable mentions:

Peters Township: The Indians won twice this past week. Tuesday, Peters defeated Seneca Valley, 7-0, outshooting the Raiders, 37-12. The Indians then beat Canon-McMillan, 4-1, the next night.

Cathedral Prep: The Ramblers picked up two wins, defeating Butler, 5-1, on Monday and North Allegheny, 5-4, on Thursday.

Baldwin: Baldwin defeated Latrobe, 5-3, in what some expect to be a preview of the Class AA championship game. The regulation loss was the first of the season for the Icecats, and Baldwin remained unbeaten.

Montour: The Spartans won twice this past week as well: 9-5 over Plum and 3-1 over Mars.

Thomas Jefferson: The Jaguars own the Player of the Week and won two games. They defeated South Park, 5-2, and Norwin, 8-5, and are two points away from clinching the Class A Southwest Division.

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