Ice Cats claw their way to dominance

Nathan Bottiger, Editor-in-Chief

Pitt-Johnstown hockey players played two home games last weekend, winning Friday over Indiana University of Pennsylvania before losing Saturday in a close shootout loss to Penn State-Altoona.

Junior Troy Schall said the Ice Cats generated a lot of offense Friday in their domination of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, winning 11-3.

“We were able to generate a lot of offense by being aggressive, winning battles and maintaining the puck.”

Pitt-Johnstown returned to the War Memorial the following day, losing in a shootout to Penn State-Altoona with a 4-3 final score.

Senior Captain David Kutzer said Penn State-Altoona is a better team than their 12-7 record predicts them to be.

“They’ve had some close games with good teams,” he said.

Schall said Pitt-Johnstown players took the loss personally, and they are all ready for their next matchup, taking place 8:25 p.m. Thursday in Altoona with the same team.

“We’ll be bouncing back on Thursday, and I believe it will be a completely different game.”

Pitt-Johnstown started their season strong, winning their first seven games. The team had another seven-game winning streak from Dec. 6 to Jan. 18.

The team as a whole has scored 172 goals and recorded 102 assists this season over the course of 25 games, making for a 22-4-2 record.

Pitt-Johnstown is in second place in their league behind first place California University of Pennsylvania by only two points.

The Ice Cats are 7-2 in league matchups, and their only two league losses were to California, 10-3 and 6-1.

Two Pitt-Johnstown players separate themselves on offense.

Before last weekend’s games junior forward Eugene Mack and sophomore forward Troy Schall have 72 and 71 points.

Mack scored 37 goals with 35 assists, and Schall has 33 goals and 38 assists. Both players have 10 power play goals.

Schall said being a top scorer is not one of his top priorities, and he is more focused on playing his role and being part of a unit.

“It doesn’t really matter to me. We all have different roles and it feels good to win.”

Kutzer said the entire line Mack and Schall are on has dominated offensive ly with a fast-paced style and good puck control.

“That whole line is excellent,” he said. “They’re everywhere.”

Schall said he feels good skating on his line. He said their chemistry and communication skills make them  formidable.

“I’m thankful to be on their line,” he said. “We all make each other better.”

Mack and Schall also see the penalty box more than any of their teammates with 60 and 61 minutes respectively.

Kutzer said the defensive lines also have been crucial to their success. Junior Derek Grove recorded 49 points this season with 22 goals and 27 assists.

Kutzer said the defense has been essential in puck movement and creating scoring opportunities.

Kutzer said both goaltenders have played well this season. Senior Dave Dunkleberger has had the majority of starts. Dunkleberger posted a 11-4 record before last weekends games.

Kutzer said Junior back-up goaltender Tyler Mains has shown great improvement this season with a 9-1 record.

“He’s improved a lot,“ he said. “He’s a hard worker.“

The Ice Cats are to play four more games this season, which includes Thursday’s rematch against Saint Vincent College. Pitt-Johnstown seniors are to be recognized during their final regular season game.

As of last week, Pitt-Johnstown ranked third in their regional standings, which makes them one place movement away from an automatic bid to a national tournament.

The American Collegiate Hockey Association awards the top two teams in each region a national berth, but if the Ice Cats do not receive the automatic bid, they will still have the opportunity to gain entry through the regional playoffs.

The regional playoffs award two more teams entry to the national tournament. Last year, the Ice Cats lost in the regional playoffs, ending their post season.

The Ice Cats postseason also includes a league playoff where they are to most likely face off against California University of Pennsylvania.

The league playoffs mainly count for bragging rights with some consideration added to regional and national seeding.

Kutzer said the Ice Cats are always ready to play, and they are not psyched out by their previous attempts to beat California.

“It’ll be a good game to play,” he said. “They’re good, but they are beatable.”