From The Tribune Democrat
By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – This past season, Dave Layman and his coaching staff contended with low numbers, as the Pitt-Johns- town Ice Cats club hockey team regrouped following heavy turnover to graduation two years ago and the pandemic’s wiping out the 2020-21 schedule.
The Ice Cats took a significant step to address the matter on Friday.
Pitt-Johnstown held a ceremony to introduce 12 recruits who will join the American Collegiate Hockey Association program for the 2022-23 season.
Four local players were among the dozen recruits recognized at Blackington Hall, as Conemaugh Valley forward Logan Angus and the Westmont Hilltop trio of forward Aiden Rice, defenseman Kyle Replogle and forward Tony Marano committed to UPJ.
“Definitely the highest number of quality players, both academically and on the ice,” said the Ice Cats’ Layman, a 2004 graduate of Pitt-Johnstown and former goalie. “With 16 years, going on 17, as coach – we typically get seven or eight players. Having 12, we’re really excited.”
Westmont’s Rice was the leading scorer in the local Laurel Mountain Hockey League as Westmont finished as playoff runner-up. He was part of the Armstrong Arrows 2022 Under-18 Tier II team that advanced to the national championships.
“I wanted to keep playing hockey,” Rice said.
“He’s really a good coach and it’s a good program. It’s close to home. My family can come to games. I do like that I get to keep playing at the War Memorial, where I grew up playing.”
Marano and Replogle also were part of the Armstrong Arrows team that won Western Pennsylvania State Tournament Tier II Mid-American District to reach the national championship tournament.
“I have a couple friends here. It’s a college close to home and a really good hockey team,” Marano said. “I thought it fit for me. I played with most of these kids in travel (hockey). Three of them were on my team.”
Replogle also noted that many of the recruits crossed paths in one way or another in travel programs. Two players at Friday’s ceremony competed on the Pittsburgh Predators team that fell to the Arrows in the state tournament final.
“I knew a bunch of the guys,” Replogle said.
“Throughout all the years and playing with them at a young age,” Replogle said. “I’ve always had an interest in coming to UPJ. It’s close to home.
“It makes it so much more comfortable to get involved and start getting to work,” Replogle said of the familiarity with his teammates.
Conemaugh Valley’s Angus was this season’s leading scorer on the Johnstown Jets in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League.
“It’s a small team right now but I think it will get better as the years go on,” Angus said. “It’s a very good recruiting class right now.
“It’s nice to see everyone come together and we’re going to have a really good team. They’ve been a really successful program and I think we can carry that on through the next couple years,” Angus said.
Other Ice Cats recruits included Owen Cirlingione, Hampton High School; Logan Fear, Norwin High School; Evan Jarvis, Greater Latrobe High School; Caden Kaczorowski, Peters Township High School; Collin Kuch, Baldwin High School; Alex Mitchell, Southmoreland High School; Aaron Norkevicus, City Charter; and Zachary Zeto, Franklin Regional High School.
“Two years ago, we graduated 16 seniors,” said Layman, who is assited by Tom Rizzo and Tom Eckenrod. “The following year was a COVID year, where we were under guidance to not play. We were not able to recruit or do anything with hockey.
“On top of graduating the 16 players, we just really didn’t bring in what we would have been able to. Last year the roster was smaller than normal, definitely the smallest in my career here.”
Despite the low numbers, Pitt-Johnstown produced double-digit wins and maintained a tradition that includes 14 College Hockey East (CHE) playoff appearances, three CHE championships, nine regional tournament appearances and five trips to the national event.
“Giving all the credit to the players who were here from the goaltending to the defensemen to the forwards,” Layman said. “They gave 110% day-in, day-out, every practice, every game. We still qualified for the playoffs. We finished third in the regular season and had a good showing in the playoffs sometimes with only 14 or 15 guys.”
(Originally published at https://www.tribdem.com/sports/upj-ice-cats-big-recruiting-class-has-local-presence/article_abb3cb9c-c804-11ec-9fca-9f6b47697ace.html)