Meadville has already beaten North Allegheny once this season, problem is this Tiger team looks a whole lot different than the Tigers of six Monday’s ago.

Meadville beat North Allegheny 3-1 at DeArment Ice Arena on Feb. 6. It was the Tigers second straight loss, and following that game North Allegheny coach Tom Pandolfo stepped down.

Former varsity assistant Mike Schenk has taken over the reins. The Tigers are 3-0 under Schenk.

The Bulldogs face the Tigers at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League Class AAA Penguins Cup semifinals. The winner of tonight’s game faces the winner of tonight’s nightcap between Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park in the west finals for a trip to the state championship game.

“You never know with a different coach,” Meadville head coach Jamie Plunkett said. “When they take over they make different decisions and see things in a different way.”

As well as a new coach, there will be two new faces in the lineup. Missing on the ice in the loss to Meadville loss were North Allegheny forwards Richard Halapin (17 games played, seven goals, 17 assists) and Danny Gaertner (18 games played, three goals, nine assists).

“It was a 1-1 game until Ryan O’Shurak scored,” Plunkett said. “They have a couple more guys playing than the first time we played.”

Two guys who were there for the first game are forward Wes Waldschmidt — the Tigers’ leading scorer (21 GP, 24 G, 21 A) — and defenseman Paul Dittrich (20 GP, 16 G, 22 A). Waldschmidt scored the Tigers’ goal in the 3-1 loss. He poked home his own rebound to give North Allegheny a 1-0 lead early in the second period.

“Waldschmidt is one of those guys that has a good feel for the game,” Plunkett said. “He always seems to be in the right position and never seems to be expending unnecessary energy. He’s not a real physical kid, but he’s very good with the puck.”

In North Allegheny’s season finale, a 10-0 win over Shaler, Dittrich and Waldschmidt each had three goals and two assists, but neither player scored in the Tigers’ 2-1 double-overtime win over Pittsburgh Central Catholic in the second round of the playoffs. The Tigers were one of the top four seeds that got a first-round bye.

“We need to keep the pressure on (Waldschmidt and Dittrich),” Meadville forward Casey Rogers said.

Plunkett said Dittrich is one of the top two defensemen in the PIHL this year.

“We need to put a body on him,” Plunkett said. “He is too good a puck carrier to give him space.”

Meadville counters with some talented puck-handlers of its own.

Sophomore Morgan Nickerson leads the team with 99 points.

If he scores a point tonight, he’ll become the fourth sophomore in team history to hit the 100-point mark. Ryan Smart had 108 points in 1991-92, Scott Phillis had 108 points in 1992-93 and Chris Smart had 136 points in 1997-98.

A line that was built out of necessity after an injury put forward Nick Fedorka on the shelf for two weeks has been a big part of Meadville’s 16-game unbeaten streak (15-0-1).

Luke Killmeyer has averaged a point per game since being moved on Jan. 22 from defense to center.

The Killmeyer-Mike Noonan-Rogers line has given Meadville depth at forward, Plunkett said.

Rogers has scored eight goals and seven assists during Meadville’s unbeaten streak and sports a thick, playoff beard that he calls his version of the Ben Roethlisberger.

Senior Tyler Learn has also sparked Meadville’s offense lately.

Learn had 11 goals and 11 assists in the Bulldogs first 35 games. In the last 16 games, Learn has six goals and 19 assists.

“Tyler has exceeded our expectations offensively,” Plunkett said.

Plunkett said Learn has been the Bulldogs’ most reliable faceoff man and played a key role on the penalty killing unit that has killed off 86 percent of opponents’ power plays.

Meadville snapped a three-game losing streak to North Allegheny with win in February, but still on the list is a payback for North Allegheny’s elimination of Meadville in the second round of the playoffs last year.

“This is revenge,” Meadville forward Pat Leone said. “They beat us 2-0.”

Rogers, a senior, said this year’s senior class does not want to end the season yet.

“They took us out last year,” Rogers said. “It’s not the way I want to go out. I want to beat them ... beat them bad.”



Dominick DiRienzo can reached at 724-6370, ext. 274 or by e-mail at ddirienzo@meadvilletribune.com.

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