Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Week ending Jan. 26, 2020

Sunday, January 26, 2020 | 10:31 PM

Last season, the Pine-Richland Rams lost one game.

It was a 4-3 loss to Hampton in a shootout.

At the time, the Rams were the No. 1-ranked team in the PIHL.

On Monday, Hampton welcomed Latrobe — the No. 1 team in the state. The Wildcats were 12-0 and had outscored opponents 76-14.

Spoiler alert, the Talbots did it again.

Hampton was playing with 12 skaters and a goalie and without two of its top three scorers for various reasons, including travel from amateur games.

No worries, coach Luke Leya assured the Talbots, who have just five seniors and 13 first-year varsity players.

Latrobe puts on its equipment the same Hampton does.

The result of playing a full 51 minutes of hockey and making a play in overtime ? A much-needed 2-1 victory for Hampton.

“Our biggest focus or gameplan was to keep shots to the outside. We wanted to be very conservative,” Leya said. “We had two things that needed to happen, the first of which was Jake McGee needed to show up, and he does that in every big game so we weren’t worried there. The second thing was get a little puck luck and try to keep shots to the perimeter”

Those things happened, but Latrobe struck first on a faceoff play 41 seconds into the second period.

“The goal they scored was a fantastic face-off play. They moved the puck up high to Lane Ruffner, who’s probably one of the best defenseman in the league, and he put a puck up high on Jake,” Leya said. “Other than that, we didn’t give up many other odd-man breaks. We got a power play in the third, and Ethan Varley made a great play in overtime.”

Adam Dembowski scored on that man advantage in the third at 9:44 on an assist by Joey Pankowski. Varley then netted winner in the 3-on-3 overtime. Dembowski assisted.

“There was a two-on-two scrum at Latrobe’s blue line, and their defenseman had taken the puck and started to go up ice,” Leya said. “Varley picked his pocket, and he was the last man back, so he almost had a semi break-away and man their goalie [Greg Irons] didn’t give us many chances. Ethan had about a foot and a half window to score and he did.”

The victory was only Hampton’s third, as the youth and inexperience has made it tough for the Talbots, but they’re not out yet.

They are five points behind Armstrong with four games to play. Hampton has West Allegheny, Shaler, Mars and Hempfield left on the schedule and will likely need all four.

“It’s been tough because we’ve been in every game,” Leya said. “Bounces haven’t gone our way, and the Latrobe game we got the puck to bounce our way and played a full 51 minutes. Our mentality is survive and advance. It creates some incentive for the kids. We’re considering it the first of a seven-game playoff series against West Allegheny Monday.”

Puck drop for the game against West Allegheny is scheduled for 9:10 p.m.

Honorable mention

Cathedral Prep — The Ramblers rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Pine-Richland, 3-2, on Tuesday. That included a two-goal third period, as the two teams continue to jockey for positioning in the Triple-A standings.

Baldwin The Highlanders remained unbeaten with a 4-1 win over Penn-Trafford. They and Ringgold, who plays in Class B, are the only unbeaten teams in the league.

North Catholic The Trojans continue to push toward a division crown and a top seed in Single-A, and helped themselves in a big way Tuesday night, coming back from down 3-0 to beat Fox Chapel 5-3.

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