For the second season in a row, a team from the south suburbs has two teams competing at the varsity level.
Last season, it was Canon-McMillan. This winter, it's Peters Township.
The Indians' top team, which is again in Class AAA, is 9-2 and atop the league standings. Peters Township's second team, which is in the Open Class, also finds itself near the top of the league standings with a 10-2 mark.
"We made the decision in late April or early May and it was based on where we thought we could get the best competition for our second team," said Rick Tingle, who is the head coach for Peters Township's Class AAA squad.
Last season was the first time in PIHL history a program had two varsity teams. Canon-McMillan had its usual top team in Class AAA, which advanced to the Penguins Cup quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the Big Macs Open Class team went 6-12-3, losing in the first round of the Open Cup playoffs.
Bruce Ferguson, the president of the Canon-McMillan Hockey Association, said the program didn't have the numbers to field two varsity teams this season. But Ferguson did play a role in Peters Township's decision.
"Peters Township president Jon Amelio and I are pretty good friends," Ferguson said. "Prior to last season, a bunch of the bigger AAA schools talked about the issue of having multiple junior varsity teams and that's when I told them we would have two varsity teams. So I talked to John then, and he periodically spoke to me about having two teams throughout last season and what we went through."
Tingle said he wasn't sure what to expect from the Open Class team, which is coached by Doug Hamilton, because he wasn't familiar with most of the teams in the league because of their non-proximity to Peters Township.
But he was confident the team could succeed.
"I had no idea what would happen when we made the decision," Tingle said. "But after tryouts, when I watched the second team as a group, I thought it would do well."
Tingle said there is no separation between the teams, and his Class AAA practices often have a handful of players from the Open Class team.
The top team also calls up players from the Open Class team when needed, with the most common additions being Jake Raymore (two goals, seven assists for the Open team), Jake Shopes (six goals, four assists) and Scott Cwalina (four goals, four assists), Tingle said.
William Barnes, Ross Opeka and Jace Cochrane -- all of whom have older brothers on the Indians Class AAA team -- have also been called up to the top team this season.
Tingle said he has yet to hear any criticism of having the second varsity team and if the status quo is maintained in the Open Class, the Indians will consider having two teams again next season.
"It's definitely a possibility," Tingle said. "We're still evaluating, but I haven't heard any significantly negative feedback."
Highlanders scoring at record rate
If Baldwin continues the scoring pace it set through the first 10 games for the rest of the season, it will have netted more goals per game than any team in any classification in the PIHL since the 2004-05 regular season.
The Highlanders (9-1 before a game against Indiana late Thursday night) scored 96 goals in their first 10 games of the season (9.6 goals per game). Since Chartiers Valley scored 205 goals in 21 games (9.8 goals per game) in the Open Class in the 2004-05 season, the most tallies any team has netted per contest was the 9.5 Greensburg Salem averaged last season.
The Highlanders have scored more than 12 goals in a game five times this season, including scoring 16 in two wins against Connellsville.
Baldwin has 10 players who scored at least six goals entering the week, led by Dakota Becker (14 goals), Kevin Dee (11), Brian Dee (11) and Anthony Alaimo (10).
Games of the week
Bethel Park at Seneca Valley, Tuesday, 8:10 p.m., BladeRunners-Warrendale -- The Raiders (7-5), who snapped Peters Township's eight-game win streak Tuesday, will face a Black Hawks (8-2) team that has won seven consecutive contests.
Mars at Thomas Jefferson, Thursday, 8:20 p.m., BladeRunners-Bethel Park -- Two of the top three teams in Class A will meet as the Planets (11-2) will try to avenge a 6-2 defeat in the first game of the season to the Jaguars (7-4-1).