Kittanning hockey team wants to prevent goals as well as score them
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Kittanning junior forward Hunter Grafton admitted he devoted limited attention to his back-checking during previous seasons with the Wildcats. His offensive responsibilities preoccupied his mind, a scenario that led to 37 goals and 70 assists through his sophomore year.
Particularly after Kittanning's underwhelming performance in preseason tournaments this fall, Grafton sees the need for more two-way play. His desire to assist the defense matches his aspirations to score.
Kittanning, the highest-scoring team in PIHL Class A over the past three seasons combined and a three-time semifinalist, plans to adjust the way it approaches defense. The Wildcats haven't struggled to stop opponents from scoring; they've ranked fourth twice and sixth once in goals-allowed each season since they dropped to Class A in 2009. But with the season set to begin Thursday at South Park, they're mulling the benefits of a more balanced approach.
“You might see more 3-2 games than us just outscoring everybody,” Grafton said. “It'll definitely be a different kind of Kittanning hockey than you're used to.”
Grafton is one of several proven scorers for the Wildcats. He joins sophomore Christian Miller (39 goals, 30 assists), junior Cody Toy (7, 14) senior Hunter Anthony (12, 8), freshman Jacob Snyder (4, 13) and senior Eli Johns (4, 7).
Whether anyone in the group can replace Heinz Koster, last season's Class A scoring champion (48, 43) is uncertain. But the Wildcats also wonder whether adding someone to Kittanning's recent line of star scorers is a top priority.
“We're still going to have a lot of guys scoring goals,” Kittanning coach Jamie King said. “It's more a matter of where we create them from.”
Aggressive fore- and back-checking by the centers and wingers will help an inexperienced defense. Seniors Mike Kelly and Caroline Mundy are proven blue-liners, but behind them are freshmen Donovan and Zane Wichowski, and sophomores Nate Grafton and Chandler Cousins.
The young defensemen improved considerably during the preseason, King and Grafton agreed. Continuing the development is pivotal, and the caretaker of progress is third-year starting goaltender Cameron Langham.
Langham stopped 90.3 percent of the shots he faced as a junior and allowed 21 goals in 11 games. A year earlier, he had a 89.8 save percentage and allowed 47 goals in 21 games.
King wants Langham to work on his communication with his defenders. He has asked the senior to assure defensemen they have time when they retrieve pucks, or to let them know from which direction forecheckers approach.
“We have to outwork the other teams and just take the body on them,” Anthony, an alternate captain, said. “We'll still be an offensively threatening team, but we'll be grittier than in past years.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Crosby, Malkin didn’t sign on for this
- Man shot in McKees Rocks
- Penguins’ Malkin: ‘We’re not a championship team’
- Donora native at forefront of scientific research
- Hempfield man dies in single-vehicle accident
- Penguins eliminated with Game 5 overtime loss to Rangers
- Special events planned as part of Kennywood’s 2015 season
- Murrysville woman apologizes for scholarship fund theft
- 2 Hempfield Area students charged with sexting
- Filming for Cinemax TV series to divert traffic in Allegheny Township
- Death toll from Nepal earthquake reaches at least 876