Ice Cats accept difficult games

Ice Cats accept difficult games

Jonathan Hartman

Pitt-Jonstown hockey team prepares for a face-off Saturday during an 11-0 win over St. Vincent University at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena

Ed Sheets, Contributing Writer

The Pitt-Johnstown Ice Cats club hockey team dropped the puck on their 2012-2013 season Oct. 6 and they hope they can take the next step this season.

Junior goaltender David Dunkelberger said the team was one game short of nationals and the College Hockey East championship series last year.

“Our major goal is to make both of these this season”

The Ice Cats biggest challenge may be their young roster. The 25-member team has 11 freshmen.

With a large number of freshman it can take some time to get them playing at the collegiate level, according to Head Coach David Layman.

“The collegiate level of play, for most players, takes some time to adjust to coming from the high school level,” said Layman.

However, the team has home veteran leadership, including returning junior captain Anthony Pioli.

“I take great pride in being a captain and try to be the best leader for my teammates.”

Staff Adviser John Ziats said the team has some other positives that may help them this season.

“There’s a strong nucleus of experienced players mixed with a good group of freshmen. We also have the luxury of having two outstanding goaltenders.”

The Ice Cats opened their 2012-13 season Oct. 8 defeating West Virginia University 8-5 before dropping their home opener a day later to Robert Morris University 7-1.

Layman said players learned some lessons from both games, including how important discipline and focus can be to winning games, along with the importance of arriving ready to play.

According to Ziats, the remainder of the teams schedule features tough matchups.

“We have one of the toughest, if not the toughest schedule in the east,” Ziats said, adding that playing a tough schedule could be good for the team.

“It should make us better prepared for a return to the playoffs,” he said.

Piolo said he looks forward to the challenges.

“I like this schedule because we as a team will have to play our best not only every game but every shift we are out on the ice,” Pioli said.

Dunkleberger said that some of the teams they are to face this season include national powers California University of Pennsylvania, Robert Morris University and Neumann College, Aston, Pa.

“We upset No. 1-seeded Neumann College last season during regionals,” said Dunkleberger.

Ice Cats President Lacey Rager said another goal is to draw more fans to games.

“The boys put a lot of heart, sweat and time into the season and, I think it would be fantastic if we could fill up the stands a little more,” Rager said.

Ziats said the home arena could help to draw more fans.

“It’s high-quality hockey played in a historical venue like the War Memorial. I think once you see one game, you’ll be back,” Ziats said.

Rager said she thinks a connection could be made with the Johnstown Tomahawks junior hockey team, which plays in the same arena.

“With hockey being re-introduced to Johnstown, students could come to our games, which are held at the same ice rink as the Tomahawks play, and catch a Tomahawks game right after ours,” she said.