Trojan hockey prepares for postseason play
When the puck drops about a week from now at Lehigh Valley Ice Arena at 6 p.m., the Parkland ice hockey team will begin its quest for another league title.
In the first of two Lehigh Valley Scholastic Hockey League semifinal playoff games, Parkland (14-0) will face a Southern Lehigh (8-5-1) team that had played them close twice in the regular season. That winner will take on the winner of Northampton vs. Central/Bethlehem Catholic in a three-game series starting the following week.
“They played us tough both times we played them,” Parkland head coach Chad Loomis said. “The first time we played them I think it was a tie game going into the third period. Or maybe it was a one-goal game going into the third...The second game we beat them 4-2, so both games were really tight.”
Not many teams in the league had been able to keep pace with Parkland this season. One of the squads that had kept it close was Southern Lehigh, which has the league’s leading scorer Brendan Gertz. Gertz has poured in 38 goals in just 14 games, six more than the next closest athlete.
“They have a few really high-end players on that team and they play good team defense,” Loomis said. “It’s hard to generate good scoring opportunities against them.”
While the Trojans have seemingly coasted to another undefeated regular season, there is one obstacle that Goliath must overcome. Parkland, which featured a heavy front-loaded schedule this season, hasn’t had a game in a few weeks. Parkland has just one game since January 23, a 9-1 victory over Liberty.
Over that same three-plus week stretch, Southern Lehigh has played three times and gone 2-1 as it enters its postseason run. One thing the Spartans may have on their side that the Trojans don’t is momentum.
“We played well in the opportunities we’ve had to play, but there have been hardly any games for the last month or month and a half,” Loomis said. “That was unfortunate for us because we were playing really well going into that long break. It’s tough to say.
“Hopefully we can pick up right where we left off.
“It’s just the way the schedule went this year. The start of the season, we were kind of front-loaded and others teams didn’t play as often. To finish up, everybody else was in the rotation and we weren’t.”
The Trojans, however, do have one thing going for them. After dealing with a number of nagging injuries midway through their season, Parkland is 100 percent healthy at the most important point in the schedule.
Now the Trojans look to channel that roster full of talent into another title.
“Everyone appears to be healthy going into the playoffs,” Loomis said. “We’ve had injuries over the course of the season, but everybody is getting back and getting healthy all at the right time.”
Loomis won’t allow his players to look forward to a potential meeting against Northampton (8-5-1) or Central/Bethlehem Catholic (9-4-1). Many of these skaters have been to that championship level before, so they know exactly what it takes to get back to that mountaintop.
First, they’ll have to dispose of Southern Lehigh next Wednesday.
“Obviously, it would mean a ton to everybody,” Loomis said. “But our priority right now is making sure we win our first game. We’re not really looking any further ahead than that at the moment. That Southern Lehigh team is a good team, so that’s as far as we can focus.”