Ice Cats seek revenge and playoff win

Nathan Bottiger, Sports Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s Ice Cats lost to California University of Pennsylvania last Saturday for the second time this season.

The Ice Cats played California university again for the College Hockey East’s first playoff round, and lost 10-3.

Head Coach David Layman said he was confident in the team’s ability to be more competitive in the upcoming game compared to the Jan. 27 game that resulted in a 6-1 loss.

Heading in to this weekend’s game, the team was coming off a tough loss to Nuemann University for the first round of the American College Hockey Association’s tournament.

Similarly, the first time the team played California university, they were coming off a tough couple weekend where they saw tough competition.

“We were coming off a hard three-game series in Philadelphia and Atlantic City (N.J.) last time we played them, and we are more refreshed and more focused this time.”

Layman said the team focused on defensive-zone coverage to ward off California university’s strong offensive abilities.

“We have been working on how to contain them in the defensive zone by playing our positions, clogging up the middle, outworking them and clearing the front of the net.”

Offensively the team focused on one-timers, which Layman says is California’s goaltender’s weakness.

“(California university) has a solid goaltender, but he tends to be weak on his lateral movement on the back door one-timer shots.”

Layman said starting goaltender Dave Dunkleberger, junior, also needed to be sharp heading into the game.

Layman said the game plan Layman he laid out for this game did work, but it was acted upon too late in the game to matter.

“(California university) jumped out to a 6 to 1 lead in the first period.  (Our) players couldn’t contain (California university’s ) fast strong offensive style play, and were caught out of position numerous times.”

He said sophomore Troy Schall and sophomore Bryan Albright did a good job leading the team in their offensive attempts while.

The team has endured the burden of season-ending injuries. Captain David Kutzer suffered a broken ankle and torn tendon in that ankle in November.

Kutzer said he is glad to now have the ability to walk, but he is itching to be back on the ice.

“It’s killing me, having to watch all their postseason games,” Kutzer said. “Hopefully, I can start playing again in two months or so.”

Five other players join Kutzer on the injured list.

Despite the ill-fated losses in both tournaments, and the problems with injuries, two players were recognized for College Hockey East awards.

Schall received the College Hockey East Offensive Player of the Year award, and Grove was honored as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Layman said this is the first time in the team’s history when two players have received league honors.

Layman said winning the league championships would have been the perfect way to end the season on a good note.

“The College Hockey East Championships are extremely important because the (league) is probably the best, most competitive league in the country.”

Layman said the Ice Cats are already focusing on next season, and finishing up some community service projects.

“The team will focus on lessons learned and prepare for next season. “