Organized high school hockey in Western Pennsylvania dates back to 1971, when the Western Pennsylvania High School Hockey League (WPHSHL) was formed out of the Alpine Arena (also known as the "Alpine Ice Chalet") in Swissvale, PA. Six schools competed in the inaugural season of the WPHSHL in 1971-72: Churchill, Mt. Lebanon, Penn Hills, Shaler, Upper St. Clair, and West Mifflin North. The WPHSHL expanded to 19 teams for its second season, and new leagues began to emerge throughout the area in upcoming seasons.
Eventually, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL) was created in 1999 as a merger between the three scholastic leagues in the western half of the state: the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (WPIHL), the South Hills Interscholastic Hockey League (SHIHL), and the Lakeshore Hockey League (LKSHL). This merger established a single league of teams, providing better structure and stability as the sport was growing in popularity throughout the region.
The first Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championships were held in 1975 at the Glenwood Ice Arena in Erie, PA. State champions have been crowned every season since, with the lone exception of 1978, In 1981, the format of the state championships was revised to ensure that a finalist from Western PA met a finalist from Eastern PA, thereby establishing the first "Pennsylvania Cup." This eventually led to the Western PA finalist being the Penguins Cup champion and the Eastern PA finalist being the Flyers Cup champion, named after the respective NHL teams on each half of the state. The PIHL playoff champion at each level is awarded the Penguins Cup, and PIHL teams have traditionally experienced victory in the state finals.
Today, the PIHL consists of over 160 teams from over 60 schools at the Varsity, Junior Varsity, and Middle School levels. The Varsity level is divided into four classifications: AAA, AA, A, and B. The AAA, AA, and A classifications compete in the Penguins Cup playoffs, while the Class B competes for their own playoff championship as co-op teams. The PIHL also sanctions Junior Varsity and Middle School levels, where an optional post-season tournament caps off the year.
1971 - Founded as the Western Pennsylvania High School Hockey League (WPHSHL) at the Alpine Ice Chalet in Swissvale, PA
1972 - The WPHSHL expands to 19 teams for its second season
1973 - The Ohio Valley League forms at the Sewickley Ice Arena
1973 - The South Penn High School Hockey League (SPHSHL) forms at the Rostraver Ice Garden
1975 - The WPHSHL is renamed the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League
1975 - The Lake Shore Hockey League (LKSHL) is established in Northwest PA
1979 - The South Hills Interscholastic Hockey League (SHIHL) is created at the Mt. Lebanon Ice Center
1981 - The first "Pennsylvania Cup" is conducted on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia
1999 - The WPIHL, the SHIHL, and the LKSHL merge to form the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL)
2004 - An "Open Division" is created to help new and co-op Varsity programs establish competitive teams
2014 - The PIHL Board of Governors ratify a new alignment plan, replacing enrollment with a "comparative formula."
Mt. Lebanon defeats Penn Hills in overtime, 5-4, to capture the first-ever Western Pennsylvania High School Hockey League (WPHSHL) Championship.
Baldwin completes the first undefeated season en route to winning the championship of the South Penn High School Hockey League. The team went 13-0 during the regular season and gave up only 2 goals all year. Even more impressive, it was the first season of existence for the team.
The first Pennsylvania High School Hockey Championships are conducted at the Glenwood Ice Arena in Erie, PA. The format used round-robin play among all participating teams to determine two finalists, regardless of location within the state and size of the school. Baldwin is crowned the first scholastic hockey champion in state history after a 4-3 overtime win over Churchill.
Churchill establishes itself as the first dynasty in state history by winning its third-straight state championship. Churchill had become the first team to win back-to-back titles the prior season, and with the trifecta, the Chargers had won three state titles before any other school had two.
The state high school hockey finals adopts a format that pits the western side of the state versus the eastern side of the state in the championship game and are given the title of the "Pennsylvania Cup." Under the new name and format, Archbishop Carroll takes the first Pennsylvania Cup Class AAA crown, and Fairview captures the inaugural Pennsylvania Cup Class AA title, with both games held at the Class of 1923 Arena on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
The western side of Pennsylvania begins to conduct Class A playoffs for the first time in state history, thereby adding a third state championship trophy. Plum takes home both the inaugural Class A Penguins Cup and the inaugural Class A Pennsylvania Cup.
The Meadville Bulldogs top LaSalle in the Class AAA Pennsylvania Cup to win their 5th-straight state championship. Prior to their run, the longest-consecutive streak of state championships was 3, and it was not until 22 years later that Meadville's streak was matched (2018). A new record was set in 2019.
Three of the most-dominant teams in PIHL history capture state championships in a Western PA sweep at the RMU Island Sports Center on April 8, 2006. In just its 8th season as a Varsity hockey program, Quaker Valley dominates defending-champion Penncrest, 9-2, in Class A. Pine-Richland also earns its first state championship -- a title they would successfully defend the following year -- by shutting down Haverford, 3-0, in Class AA. Mt Lebanon ends a 30-year drought at the state level with a 5-2 win over Cardinal O'Hara in Class AAA. The three champions combined for only 2 losses on the season, and Mt Lebanon is arguably the best team in state history by going 26-0 on the season and out-scoring its opponents 175-19.
Team Pittsburgh, comprised entirely of PIHL players, defeats Team Wisconsin, 5-4 in a sudden-death shootout, at the Chicago Showcase to win the tournament championship on April 22, 2007. It is the first -- and ultimately the only -- title for a Pennsylvania team in the 25-year history of the prestigious event.
After 25 years of the acclaimed "Chicago Showcase" being run by the Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois, USA Hockey awards the showcase to the PIHL. It was renamed as "America's Showcase" and held at the RMU Island Sports Center in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, where the first games are played on April 14, 2010. The PIHL helped sustain the event as one of the top scholastic showcases in the country, attracting players and scouts from all parts of the United States. The event remained in Pittsburgh for 8 years before shifting to Saint Louis in 2018.
The Pennsylvania Cup Finals are conducted at Penn State University for the first time on March 22, 2014. The host venue is the new Pegula Ice Arena, a 6,000-seat arena that is home to the Penn State University Division I ice hockey programs. After many years of alternating the state finals between various venues in the west and east of the state, the championships stay at Penn State for 3-straight years.
The Bethel Park Blackhawks of the PIHL emerged victorious at the USA Hockey High School National Championships in Omaha, NE, on March 30, 2014. Bethel Park was one of 32 participating teams from across the United States and the first school from Pennsylvania to claim a national title in hockey. The Blackhawks went 4-0-1 to reach the championship game, where they defeated Providence Catholic from Illinois, 2-1, to earn the title of National Champions.
Armstrong participated in the longest game in PA state championship history on March 24, 2018, in West Chester, PA. The game went into a fifth overtime, totaling 8 periods and over 90 minutes of hockey. Unfortunately for the Riverhawks, Downingtown East scored the OT goal to take a 3-2 win and the Class AA state title.
PAT McDERMOTT -- MT LEBANON -- 1972-73
In the 1972-73 season, Pat McDermott of Mt. Lebanon was the first player in Western PA to score 50 goals in a season. He finished the year with 55 goals, a record that stood until 1980.
CURT HETZ -- SHALER -- 1974-75
Shaler forward Curt Hetz twice fell just shy of the record for goals in a season, but he still became the first player to have two seasons of 50+ goals. Hetz had 54 goals as a junior and put home 51 more as a senior in 1974-75, also leading the league in scoring in both seasons.
BUDDY MARTIN & DEE RIZZO -- ALLDERDICE -- 1979-80
Allderdice forward Buddy Martin set the new high-water mark for goals in a season with 65 in the 1979-80 season. Martin did so one in of the most-competitive divisions ever seen in the area, and linemate Dee Rizzo contributed to the effort with 78 assists.
LYNN SIPE -- NORTH CATHOLIC -- 1980-81
The single-season record for goals lasted only one year when Lynn Sipe of North Catholic found the back of the net 68 times in 1980-81. Sipe's new mark would survive most of the decade of the 1980's.
CHUCK CHIATTO -- NORTH CATHOLIC -- 1983
Chuck Chiatto of North Catholic was the first player from Western PA selected in the NHL Entry Draft. The Detroit Red Wings picked the talented forward in the 12th round (226th overall) in the draft held in June of 1983.
JOHN MOONEY -- SERRA CATHOLIC -- 1988-89
In the 1988-89 campaign, John Mooney of Serra Catholic became the first player in Pennsylvania history to surpass 100 goals in a season with 102, bettering the previous mark by 34. This began a period where 8 players in Western PA would surpass 60 goals over the course of just 5 seasons.
JON JOHNSON -- FORD CITY -- 1989-90
Ford City's Jon Johnson set the all-time state record for goals in a single season with 122 in 1989-90. Johnson broke the previous record only 1 season after it was set, but his record still stands today. Johnson also established the Western PA record for points in a season with 143.
MIKE SARGO -- GATEWAY -- 1995-96
On November 20, 1995, Mike Sargo of Gateway posted 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in a single game, setting a league record. Then on February 26, 1996, Sargo scored his 100th goal of the season for the Gators, becoming just the 3rd player in state history with 100 goals in a single campaign.
GARY KLAPKOWSKI -- SERRA CATHOLIC -- 1999-00
Serra Catholic forward Gary Klapkowski recorded 58 goals and 90 points as only a 9th grader in the 1999-2000 season, establishing scoring records for a freshman that still stand today. Klapkowski finished 3rd overall in scoring in the entire PIHL for its inaugural season, and he propelled his Eagles to their first-ever Penguins Cup and PA state championships.
BJ DEPAOLI -- SERRA CATHOLIC -- 2001
Freshman forward BJ DePaoli led the way for Serra Catholic to a repeat as Class A state champions on April 1, 2001. DePaoli had 2 goals and 1 assist in the game -- including the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left -- to help his Eagles squad overcome a 3-0 deficit and defeat Springfield, 5-3, in Haverford, PA. Overall, DePaoli had arguably the best single postseason in league history: 19 points in just 4 games.
FURMAN SOUTH & COLIN SOUTH -- QUAKER VALLEY -- 2006
Quaker Valley siblings Furman & Colin South lead the Quakers to their first state title on April 8, 2006, by scoring 4 and 3 goals, respectively, in the state championship game. Quaker Valley dismantled defending-champion Penncrest, 9-2, in the contest. Joining the South brothers on a potent forward line was Tim Hall, and all three players went on to play NCAA Division 1 hockey.
JOE GRIFFIN -- NORTH ALLEGHENY -- 2013
North Allegheny's Joe Griffin recorded 4 goals in the Class AAA State Championship Game on March 23, 2013, leading the Tigers to a 6-2 upset win and the 2nd state title in school history.
ART McQUILLAN -- WESTMONT HILLTOP -- 2013
On December 20, 2013, Westmont Hilltop Head Coach Art McQuillan earned his 500th career win with a 5-0 victory on the road. He began coaching the Hilltoppers in 1987.
MITCHELL RUPPRECHT -- DEER LAKES -- 2014-15
Deer Lakes senior Mitchell Rupprecht surpassed the century mark with 110 points in the 2014-15 campaign. His 69 goals set the PIHL-era (1999-present) standard for goals in a single season.
JAMIE PLUNKETT -- MEADVILLE -- 2017
Meadville Head Coach Jamie Plunkett registered the 1,000th win of his coaching career on February 3, 2017. Plunkett began coaching at Meadville in 1986 and has 8 state championships on his resume. He is also considered the winningest high school hockey coach in the country.
PIHL IN THE PROS
The following PIHL alumni have played at least 1 regular-season game in the NHL or AHL:
Ryan Malone -- Upper Saint Clair
Vincent Trocheck -- Upper Saint Clair
Dylan Reese -- Upper Saint Clair
Grant Lewis -- Upper Saint Clair
Andrew Blazek -- Upper Saint Clair
Christian Hanson -- Peters Township
Rob Madore -- Peters Township
Chris Clackson -- Peters Township
Matt Clackson -- Peters Township
Matt Bartkowski -- Mt Lebanon
Tyler Murovich -- Mt Lebanon
RJ Umberger -- Plum
Brandon Saad -- Pine-Richland
Mike Weber -- Seneca Valley
John Zeiler -- Thomas Jefferson
John Gibson -- Baldwin
Nate Guenin -- Hopewell
Bill Thomas -- Fox Chapel
J.B. Bittner -- Seton-LaSalle
Denny Urban -- Baldwin
Zac Lynch -- Shaler
Kris Mayotte -- Central Catholic
Mark Scally -- Moon
Sam Lafferty -- Hollidaysburg
The following PIHL alumni have skated as an on-ice official in at least 1 regular-season game in the NHL or AHL:
Keith Kaval -- Cathedral Prep
Ray King -- Cathedral Prep
Furman South -- Quaker Valley
Zach Roberts -- Central Catholic
Denny Urban -- Baldwin
ALL-TIME MEMBER PROGRAMS
The following schools in Western PA and Northern WV have fielded teams in the PIHL (or its previous leagues):
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
Shady Side Academy
South Hills Catholic
Upper St Clair