Having the sun shine and the snow melt can only mean one thing – it’s playoff time in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League. The race to the 2010 Penguins Cup begins on Monday as Class AAA begins the first round of the playoffs with a rivalry game between Norwin and Penn Trafford.
Between now and March 27, 12 teams will battle it out to earn the right to be crowned the top team in Pennsylvania’s highest classification. If Saturday’s play-in game, a contest which saw Mt. Lebanon defeat Pine-Richland 1-0 in overtime, is any indication, fans are going to be in for some great hockey over the next three weeks.
Defending champion Shaler enters the tournament as the team to beat thanks to an impressive 20-1-1 record. Their only setback of the season came on Feb. 26 when Norwin upset them 3-1. The Titans not only possess the most lethal scoring attack in AAA (135 goals), but they are also the stingiest team (38 goals allowed).
Norwin-Penn Trafford, which drops the puck at 7 p.m. on March 8 at Center Ice Arena in Delmont, is the first of four opening-round contests to take place this week. The others feature: Bethel Park-McDowell at 7 p.m. on March 9 at Blade Runner’s-Bethel Park; Plum-Mt. Lebanon on March 11 at 8 p.m. at Valley Sports Complex; and Canon McMillan-North Allegheny at 8:05 p.m. on March 11 at Southpointe.
The winners from the four opening-round matchups will advance to the quarterfinals, where they will face off against the top-four seeds, each of whom received byes: Shaler, Upper St. Clair, State College and Seneca Valley.
All first and second round contests will be played at the higher seed’s home rink.
Once the Penguins Cup reaches the semifinals, the action will head to Mellon Arena. Those games are slated for March 22 and 23, with the AAA game slotted at 9 p.m. both days.
The 2010 Class AAA Penguins Cup champion will be determined following the Penguins-Flyers afternoon matinee on March 27. Game time for the contest is 9 p.m.
On April 1 the winner of the Penguins Cup will take on the Flyers Cup champion at Mellon Arena for the right to be crowned the Pennsylvania State High School Hockey champion. That contest will begin at 4:30 p.m.
Make sure to check PittsburghPenguins.com daily for scores, brackets and standings as we track all of the action.