Icecats skate to exceed expectations

Bobby Scott, Sports Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s club hockey team is emerging from an offseason similar to the women’s volleyball team.

The Icecats are riding high into the 2014-2015 season after producing arguably the most successful season they have ever had.

The team was crowned the 2014 College Hockey East champions after defeating California University of Pennsylvania 7-6 last March.

They also clinched a spot in the American College Hockey Association Division II National Tournament by winning the Atlantic Regional Tournament in February.

The Icecats were able to compile a 29-5-2 record.

While the 2013-2014 season is one to remember for the Icecats, quite a few younger players will have to step up for graduated seniors who were integral parts to last year’s accomplishments.

“We lost forward Eugene Mack, taking his place on the first line is freshman Jake Miller,” alternate captain senior forward Troy Schall said.

“We lost one of our top defensemen (Josh Bioni) and freshman Tyler Shima is filling in at that spot.”

The team also lost last year’s starting goaltender David Dunkleberger to graduation and he is to be replaced by senior Tyler Mains.

Senior leadership coming from Schall, Mains, forward alternate captain Brian Albright and defenseman captain Derek Grove may affect how well the team’s newcomers perform.

Miller and Shima make up a large freshman class with 12 of the 26 players being first-year students; 20 of the 26 players on the team are underclassmen, which may leave one to believe the club’s best years are still ahead of them.

Schall said the plan is to exceed expectations from last year.

“It is going to take hard work, dedication and passion whether it is in the gym, at practice or during games,” he said.

“We feel we are working harder this year than last year, and we are focusing on being a better team than before.”

Albright said the returning upperclassmen’s talent should balance out the inexperience of freshmen.

“We have a lot of returning players who know what it takes to get back to where we were and a lot of incoming freshmen with talent,” he said.

Albright added that the systems on offense and defense are the same, but are adjusted to help benefit the playing styles of the new players and returning players.

“We have a lot more speed than last year so our systems are much faster than in years past,” he said.

The team starts their season Oct. 4 on the road against Penn State-Altoona before traveling to the Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon, Fayette County, to take on California (Pa.) in a rematch of the College Hockey East championship.

Both games are College Hockey East-sanctioned games.

Albright said that the team is not eyeing any team in particular on the schedule.

“We just want to win every game we play, it does not matter who we play,” he said.

The Icecats will not open their home schedule until Oct. 11-12 when they skate against Rowan University (Glassboro, N.J.) and East Carolina University (Greenville, N.C.) at Planet Ice along Jari Drive.