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Late-game struggles fuels offseason for Shaler hockey

| Sunday, July 23, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Mitchell Werry and Mitchel Fuchs celebrates Shaler's first goal against Plum on March 9, 2017, at Pittsburgh Ice Arena.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Mitchell Werry and Mitchel Fuchs celebrates Shaler's first goal against Plum on March 9, 2017, at Pittsburgh Ice Arena.

The Shaler hockey team's summer workouts were fueled by a season in which they opened the playoffs with a 6-5 overtime win against North Hills.

Even with a 5-2 loss to Plum that followed, the Titans gained plenty of extra motivation for the summer workouts.

“We are more motivated to do better this season,” Titans forward Mitchel Fuchs said. “We set our goals high and hope to have another long season. Our biggest area of improvement needs to be playing full, hard three-period games.”

Sealing victories was a struggle for the Titans last season. In the playoff win against North Hills, Shaler (10-10-1) had a 3-1 lead after one period and 5-3 lead after two, but allowed the Indians to force overtime.

During summer skates, Shaler has been working on finding the fire to finish games.

“Working hard in the offseason,” Fuchs said. “No lazy penalties to make us play short-handed. Doing extra work away from the team to put us ahead.”

The Titans lost several leads in the third period last season that helped contribute to a fifth-place finish in the Class AA East Division. Shaler opened last season with close losses to Penn-Trafford and Hampton that could have been wins.

“The big focus is mainly on defense,” Shaler senior forward Seth Walzer said. “We lost almost all of our defenseman. We just have to back check a lot harder this year and it helps that one of our offenseman, Jason Fisherkeller, hopped back on defense to help out.”

The Titans didn't have many struggles on offense last season. Shaler scored 86 goals in the regular season.

Fuchs, who averaged 1.68 points per game, led the team with 18 goals and 14 assists. Five players — Fuchs, Walzer (1.47), Mitchell Werry (1.47), Josh Brantner (1.43) and Zach Sarnowski (1.32) — averaged more than a point per game.

If the offense continues to play well and Shaler can break in a new defensive core, the Titans will have a chance to earn a second consecutive trip to the playoffs.

“Our main focus has been conditioning, having on-and-off the ice workouts and trying to improve as a team overall,” Fuchs said.

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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