Trib HSSN PIHL Team of the Week: Pine-Richland Rams
A week after the team that took down Pine-Richland from the ranks of the unbeaten was selected as the TribLIVE High School Sports Network PIHL Team of the Week, the Rams responded to the shootout loss to Hampton by winning two games and being announced as Western Pennsylvania’s representative in the USAH Division 1 High School Nationals, which begin March 28.
With the two wins this past week, one over Shaler on Monday and another in a shootout over Latrobe on Thursday, the Rams have clinched the top seed in the Penguins Cup playoffs in Class AA.
“I think we had something to prove after the Hampton game,” first-year coach Jordan Yoklic said. “I think we learned from it and we wanted to come out and prove that we could take the lessons and do the simple things and win.”
The week started with a 5-2 win over Shaler. Pine-Richland, this week’s PIHL Team of the Week, had 64 shots on goal to Shaler’s 13.
“(The defensive effort) is probably what I’ve been most proud of all year,” Yoklic said. “We have the offensive talent to score some goals, but from a defensive standpoint, I’ve been really proud of our players, and it all starts with (goalie) Danny Stauffer back there keeping pucks out of the net.”
Stauffer stopped 11 of those 13 shots on goal.
Brandon Kashur scored a goal and assisted on another, while Jordan Rosenbaum had a three-point night. Brian Phipps got credit for the eventual winner, when he scored 5:22 into the second period to make it 3-1 Rams.
Pine-Richland then turned its attention to the second-place team in Class AA’s Southeast Divison: Latrobe.
Pine-Richland, after being down twice, won following a seven-round shootout.
Alex Rihn scored two goals in a 12-second span in second period to give the Rams a 2-1 lead.
“Rihn is a guy that we look to in a close game. He’s got ice in his veins,” Yoklic said. “He always seems to find success and makes plays in the close games.”
Latrobe scored twice to take the lead in the third before Nicholas Lindauer tied the game with 1:34 left in the third.
The two teams skated to a stalemate in overtime, before the shootout was decided in the seventh round. The overtime loss gave the Wildcats a home game in the first round, but locked up the No. 1 seed for Pine-Richland.
“I was a tremendous game on both sides,” Yoklic said. “It was nice to get the overtime challenge and shootout again against another good team and come out on the other side with a win.”
The good news kept coming for Pine-Richland. The team’s Twitter account announced after the game the Rams were selected to represent the PIHL and Western Pennsylvania in the 2019 Division 1 High School Nationals.
According to Yoklic, it was a three-to-four-month process that began at the St. Margaret’s Face-Off, a tournament played at the beginning of the season.
The event, held this year in Cleveland, runs from March 28 to April 1. The Rams will be joined at the event by Bishop McCort, which is ineligible for the Penguins Cup Playoffs because of a rule change and subsequent team decision regarding foreign-exchange student count and players on the team. Burrell, a Division 2 team in the PIHL, is also set to head to Cleveland for the Nationals and will play in the Co-Op Division.
“Earlier in the year, our St. Margaret’s success certainly aided our efforts to get into this,” said Yoklic. “I think having continued success after that has helped us, too.”
Pine-Richland returns to action against second-place Mars on Monday at Baierl Ice Complex. The Rams round out the regular season against Quaker Valley on Feb. 21.
“Anytime there’s close games it helps, so this week helped us,” Yoklic said. “Fortunately, with the amount of seniors and leadership we have on our team, it’s been good for us and we’re looking forward to the challenges moving forward.”
PIHL honorable mentions:
Peters Township inched closer to Triple-A’s No. 1 seed with a win over Mt. Lebanon on Monday in Class AAA action.
In Class AA, Upper St. Clair moved into first place in the Southeast Division with its 8-3 win over Penn-Trafford on Monday, and Franklin Regional clinched a playoff spot with a 5-2 win over Plum on Monday. Quaker Valley’s playoff berth was clinched with Monday’s win over Hampton in a shootout.
In Division 2, Trinity picked up a meaningful win for its playoff push, beating Morgantown, 6-4, on Tuesday. Burrell’s two wins secured the first seed for the Bucs.
Kyle Dawson is a freelance writer.