Trib HSSN’s PIHL Team of the Week: Trinity

Sunday, January 27, 2019 | 7:57 PM

With the top eight teams qualifiying for Division 2’s playoffs in the PIHL, every game down the stretch for the Trinity Hillers is important.

The Hillers took a big step in their playoff push with a win Monday over Knoch, and jumped the Knights for eighth place in Division 2 in the process. Trinity blanked Knoch, 4-0.

For their efforts, and for the magnitude of Monday’s win, Trinity has been selected as this week’s TribLIVE High School Sports Network Team of the Week.

Jack Hritsko scored two first-period goals for the Hillers, before adding his hat-trick goal in the third period. The other Trinity goal came from Travis Wright midway through the second period.

But the game-stealing performances came from Trinity’s defense and goaltender, according to Andrew Piatt, the Hillers’ first-year coach.

“We got off to a good start, which is a problem we’ve had a bit this season, but we tightened up defensively,” Piatt said. “We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Jon Chopp, our goalie. We’ve left him out to dry a couple times this year, but we were able to make sure he didn’t face as many high-percentage opportunities, but he played really well.”

Chopp recorded his first shutout, stopping all 34 shots in the win. He’s faced 30 shots or more in all but three of his 16 games this season, and according to Piatt, has been the reason why Trinity is in its position.

“I watched him steal some games for this Trinity team last year while my brother was a senior on the team and I was coaching for Canon-Mac last year,” Piatt said. “We lean on him. I’ve told the guys we probably lean on him a bit too much, but now that we’re giving him a little help, he’s been even better. He’s finding his game in the second half, which will help our playoff push.”

Chopp is a junior and is joined by a few other Hillers on the co-op roster. The Hillers’ hockey program pulls from six schools in the Washington area.

The unique thing about Trinity is they consistently only have 11 skaters and Chopp, which makes things difficult. Piatt said his team has persevered after meshing quickly.

Hritsko, who scored the hat trick in the win Monday, is a junior at Chartiers-Houston.

“This team tightened up despite not really spending a lot of time together outside of hockey,” said Piatt. “We had a handful of kids throughout the co-op that decided to not play because they didn’t think the team would be very good and would get smacked. That’s been a mantra we’ve gone by all year. We were written out by people in our own organization. It’s given our guys extra motivation.”

Piatt rolls out seven forwards and four defensemen when everyone is healthy.

It can be tough for the Hillers when going against some of the faster and more talented teams in Division 2.

“We’ve had a few games where we’ve played well for a period or two, but then give up a bunch of goals in the third,” Piatt said. “The wheels kind of fall of sometimes. Guys are seeing more ice time than they know what to do with.”

Trinity will return to action Tuesday against Conellsville, which already clinched a playoff spot. Trinity will then round out the schedule with games against Morgantown, McDowell and third-place Neshannock.

Trinity has a one-point advantage on Knoch, and is four points ahead of Bishop Canevin and McDowell.

PIHL Honorable Mentions:

Elsewhere in Division 2, Burrell stayed unbeaten by beating Bishop Canevin, 10-2, and Ringgold ran away with a 13-1 win over McDowell Monday.

In Class A, Meadville raced out to an early lead and won 12-1 against Beaver on Monday, while Montour scored 17 goals for the second-straight game in a win over Sewickley Academy. Those two teams will play Monday at the RMU Island Sports Complex.

In Class AA, Greater Latrobe took over first place in the Southeast Division with a 2-1 win over Upper St. Clair. Also, Pine-Richland recorded a 2018-19 PIHL season-best 81 shots on goal in the Rams’ 9-1 win against Franklin Regional.

In Class AAA, first-place Peters Township shut out Butler, 6-0.

Kyle Dawson is a freelance writer.

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