Cats skate for two accolades

Bobby Scott, Editor-In-Chief

For the second year in a row, Pitt-Johnstown’s club hockey team has earned the right to play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division III Men’s National Tournament in Pelham, Ala.

The Icecats are 24-5 overall after clinching a national playoff spot and winning their bracket in the association’s Altantic Regional playoffs Feb. 20-21 in York, Pa.

The teams with the two best records from each region receive automatic bids to Pelham. The next best eight teams compete against each other for an additional two bids.

California (Pa.) University and Bryn Athyn College were the region’s two best teams, earning each team an automatic bid.

Pitt-Johnstown won one bid from the eight-team competiton.

The fifth-seeded Icecats defeated eighth-seeded Robert Morris University 4-3 in the semifinal and fourth-seeded Farmingdale (N.Y.) State College 6-5 in overtime.

Those two regional playoff wins earned Pitt-Johnstown the fourth and final Atlantic Region playoff seed along with Fairfield (Conn.) University, who won the third seed.

Before the Icecats played in the national tournament, the team had to take care of more pressing matters over the weekend with competition in the College Hockey East league playoffs in Delmont.

Pitt-Johnstown won the league title a year ago, defeating seven-time defending champions California (Pa.) 7-6.

Senior center Brian Albright said that winning any kind of championship is important, no matter what level of prestige.

“It is easy to think about nationals, but nobody is looking past the College Hockey East playoffs,” he said.

Although both crowns are important to the team, senior defenseman Derek Grove said the league playoffs prepare players for the national playoffs.

“League playoffs serve as a warm up round (for teams who make it to nationals), so the intensity is not 100 percent there,” he said.

“Everything you do is magnified at nationals; one mistake can cost you the game because everyone is playing their best game.”

Grove leads all Icecat defensemen in goals with 15 and has the fourth-most points of all American Collegiate Hockey Association defensemen with 43 as of Feb. 26.

The Icecats could not make it past pool play in last year’s national tournament, going 1-2 and finishing third in their pool.

Going deeper in the national playoffs is a top priority of the team, according to senior goaltender Tyler Mains.

“Going into last year, no one on the team had ever made it that far so we were inexperienced heading into the national tournament,” he said.

“I think this year we have a much better idea of how we need to play against the top teams.”