Senior members of the Pittston Area and Wyoming Area ice hockey teams ready for their annual showdown for the Blue and Gold Skate. Pictured from left to right, kneeling, Dylan Smith, Britany Ritz, andDonny Flannelly; standing: Kyle McLaughlin, Tyler Kirby, Kyle Jenkins, Kody Nowicki, Anthony Passarella, Dalton Francik, Conner Jones, and Matt Menedez.
Hockey may be played on a sheet of ice, but the Cross River Rivalry is about to heat it up.
Pittston Area and Wyoming Area will face off in a battle for the Blue ‘N Gold Skate this Friday night at the Revolution Ice Centre in Pittston Township. The junior varsity game will begin at 7:10 p.m. and the varsity game will follow at 8:50 p.m.
Both teams have had roller coaster seasons.
The season has been especially tough for the Wyoming Area Warriors. The Warriors have been plagued by injuries, suspensions, and most recently the tragic loss of their head coach Jamie Bowman. However, members of the WA team are doing their best to fight their way through the adversity. In fact, many players, as well as their new head coach feel as though the adversity has brought the team closer together.
“We have been through a lot this season,” said Warriors head coach Mike Kopec. “I think all that has happened has helped the team come together as one.”
The Patriots have also been getting it together as of late. They have had their struggles, but have fought through them and are now playing team hockey. They have beaten the league’s best and are hungry to recapture The Skate.
They are led by Rich Weinstock, Tyler Loftus, Anthony Passarella, Kyle McLaughlin and Shawn Simons. When the Patriots offense is on they are a tough team to beat. Also, Kyle Jenkins has played solid defensively all season. The Patriots will also count on role players, Jerry Scatena, Alex Rowan and Andrew Golden.
The main advantage the Patriots will have when facing off with the Warriors is goaltending. The Warriors have been unable to get consistency between the pipes all year. They have had many different goalies throughout the year and have yet to decide who will protect the net against PA.
The Patriots have relied on Shawn Simons all season and he has been consistent and, at time, terrific between the pipes. There were many games throughout the year where Simons made terrific saves to keep the Patriots afloat.
The Warriors have a slight advantage on offense. Led by Kody Nowicki, Matt Menendez, Donny Flannelly, Kolton Begley and Dominick Policare the Warriors have the potential to go on a scoring spree. Menendez and Nowicki are two of the top scorers in the league.
Dalton Francik will lead the Warriors on defense.
The Patriots have a potent offense of their own. Weinstock, Loftus and Passarella are three of the better offensive players in the league.
The game will come down to who can stop who. If Simons stops the Warriors offense the Patriots get the edge. However, if the Warriors offense goes off the Warriors have the advantage.
It will be the final Blue ‘N Gold Skate for the seniors of both teams.
“It’s definitely going to set in on Friday,” McLaughlin said. “It will be sad, but I loved every minute of my time on this team and I want to go out with a win.”
The Warriors won last year’s Skate and Stick. Kolton Begley captured The Skate for the Warriors last year with the winning goal in an exciting shootout. The Warriors go into Friday’s matchup with a 6-5 lead in the series.
Both teams will have former Warriors coach Bowman on their mind when their skates touch the ice on Friday night.
“We definitely will be playing with a heavy heart on Friday,” said Nowicki. “We want to win it for Coach Bowman.
The 13 Annual Blue and Gold Skate Game is hosted this year by Pittston Area. Proceeds will go to Candy’s Place in Forty Fort.
Donations will be presented to Candy’s Place in the name of former Pittston Area Ice Hockey parents Jeff Barran and Charles Barone – both of whom are cancer survivors.