By Matt Popchock


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It may be the middle of summer, but it’s not too early to start thinking about either the fall or winter sports season for Pittsburghers, and hockey annually bridges the gap between the two.

Recently Class AA Penguins Cup champion West Allegheny whet our appetite for the opening face-off of the 2012-13 campaign by announcing its season opener. The Indians will begin defense of their first major championship in program history by taking on neighborhood rival Moon Nov. 1 at 8:40 at the Airport Ice Arena in Moon Township.

West A cruised to the AA-Sec. 1 title with an 18-3-0 regular season record, including a 15-game winning streak that began in mid-November and lasted till late February. The No. 1 seed in the Penguins Cup Playoffs marked the team’s best finish since 2005-06. The Indians went on to defeat the Tigers in their postseason lid-lifter, and followed that up with wins over Pine-Richland and Erie Cathedral Prep for an unprecedented Penguins Cup crown before falling to Council Rock South, the reigning Flyers Cup champion, in the Pennsylvania Cup.

That winning streak included a 9-0 blanking of Moon at the new (temporary) Penguins Pond on the South Side Dec. 19, 2011, followed by a much tighter 2-1 triumph Jan. 26. In their Penguins Cup First Round contest, Moon startled West Allegheny by taking a 2-0 lead midway through regulation before the Indians erupted for a 5-2 win.

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Moon finished the ’11-’12 regular season 10-10-1, which was good for a distant second-place finish beneath West A, and grabbing the No. 8 seed in the Class AA bracket. Prior to their third loss to their section rivals, the Tigers pounded Gateway in the Penguins Cup First Round.

West Allegheny will be hit particularly hard by roster turnover this year, so conventional wisdom says it will have to count on its strong underclass stepping up big-time in order to make another run. Furthermore, head coach Tim Veach, who certainly has shown a few tricks up his sleeve, will have to overcome the indefinite departure of Penguins Cup Final hero Matt Grebosky, who tells us he’s taking his junior year off high school hockey to re-focus on other pursuits.

One of the Indians’ key returnees will be junior forward Mason Ervin, who notched 18 points during the regular season and ramped up his game during the playoffs. For Moon, forward Trevor Handlovitch should be fun to watch as a senior after putting up 20 goals and 45 points as a junior.

In any event, as rivalries go, the PIHL picked a fun way for these two to usher in the new season. Meanwhile, feel free to check out this look back at West A’s remarkable title run, courtesy of Rubino Productions and the PIHL Network:

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(Follow me on Twitter @mpopchock.)