Last month, the Baldwin High School varsity hockey team brought two impressive pieces of hardware back home: the 2021 Penguins Cup and the Class AA Pennsylvania state championship.
This marked the first Penguins Cup and state championship for Baldwin's team since 1988. The team was well on their way to a victory last year, but the season ended abruptly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's unbelievable," head coach Justin Glock said of the team's accomplishments. "I couldn't ask for anything more. I wanted it so bad for these kids because we had a lot of returning players from the previous season. They deserved that shot when it got canceled last year, and I was trying to do everything in my power to help them get there again this year. We were fortunate enough to do so, and they took advantage of it and played great in the playoffs."
Baldwin had a 2-0 shutout victory over Franklin Regional to claim the Penguins Cup, and a 4-1 victory over Flyers Cup winner Haverford High School to claim the state championship. Baldwin finished the season with an impressive 21-1 record, with netminder Eddie Nowicki going 3-0 in the playoffs and posting a 1.00 goals-against average. Nowicki finished the season with seven shutouts.
Glock - who just completed his fifth year coaching at Baldwin - said that in preparation for this year, the team did a lot of reflecting on the season that got taken from them a year prior and just looked to make the most of this year.
"I think one of the biggest aspects was just what we went through with our season getting canceled due to the pandemic and everybody being disappointed last year," he said. "We had made it to the Pens Cup the previous season, but it got canceled, so everybody was on a mission coming back this year. They didn't take anything for granted. It was sort of like a wake-up call; you never think hockey's going to be taken away from you and it actually was last year. The focus, without me even really having to do anything, was there by the players. So I give them all the credit for that."
Coming off such a disappointing end to last season was helpful in keeping a consistent mindset throughout the year and maintaining the team's bond. Glock shared that the coaches and the players wanted to honor the class of 2020 with this win, as those teammates never had the chance to compete for the titles.
"We had the players that graduated from the canceled pandemic season in mind when we were going through this as well, so it was in honor of them when we accomplished all this," Glock said.
And another unique method of team bonding came just before the playoffs started, when the entire group bleached their hair for their take on a Stanley Cup playoff beard.
"They've been doing that for the past few seasons. I've been pressured to do so, but I haven't cracked under the pressure," Glock said with a laugh.
But overall, Glock emphasized that he believes the credit for such a successful season goes largely to the players and their ability to stay focused.
"I'm so appreciative of all the players and the parents in the organization for the season because it wasn't a normal year by any means," Glock said. "Still wearing masks and not being able to be together as much as we wanted to, and our players did a great job. I just wanted to give a mention to all of them and their families for us being able to successfully make it through the season and end the playoffs with everything that was going on. The players deserve all the credit."