The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League playoff races are heating up.
In Class AAA, Pittsburgh Central Catholic and North Allegheny are locked in a duel for first place in the North Division. Central’s Chris Urso and NA’s Wes Waldschmidt have been big reasons for the Vikings’ and Tigers’ success this season.
They join Brock Heinauer of Thomas Jefferson and Kevin Dougherty of Indiana as recipients of the PIHL Highmark Player of the Month awards for January. They were honored during the first period of Wednesday’s Penguins-Blackhawks game at Mellon Arena.
Central’s Urso recorded four goals and had 14 points in six games in the month for the Vikings (15-3-0), who lead the North Division. The three-time all-star and captain of Central had two game-winning goals and registered the highest plus/minus on his team. On the season, Urso has 43 points (18+25) in 17 games.
“This is a pretty big honor for me. My teammates helped to get me here. It was a great month,” he said. “Everyone is playing pretty well right now. We want to continue that right into the playoffs.”
Waldschmidt, a senior, recently switched positions from forward to defense. It didn’t stop his production as he posted six goals and 17 points in the five games since the change. He also leads the PIHL Class AAA scoring race with 54 points (25+29) in 19 games.
“It’s a great honor. My team helped me out a lot. That’s pretty much what got me here,” he said. “The position change limits the amount of offense I get, but I still get points.”
In the South Division, senior forward Heinauer recorded 14 goals and 19 points in his last six games in January. Serving as team captain, he tallied four hat-tricks, an overtime goal and averaged more than two goals per game in January. He is tied for the PIHL Class AA scoring lead with 64 points (34+30) in 20 games.
“The main thing about the month was our six-game winning streak. We couldn’t extend it to seven, but winning those six games in a row was a big thing for us. It was nice to see,” he said. “It’s cool to come out here. It’s nice that the Penguins recognize high school players in the area. It’s great.”
In the East Division, senior goaltender Dougherty of Indiana posted a 4-2-0 record. He registered a 2.50 goals-against average and stopped 165 of 180 shots during the month.
“It’s great; it’s a great recognition,” he said. “Our team went into January 3-7 and we just tried to get back into the playoff race in those six games. We all came together in January and it’s carrying over to February. Hopefully, we can make it to playoffs.”