Norwin hockey aims to improve this season
Entering his second season as the Norwin hockey coach, Dennis Tokarski is seeking improvement and that goes beyond increasing the total in the win column.
Working with a team that has suffered through some losing seasons in recent years, including a 2-14-2 record last season, Tokarski is striving to change the mentality of the program.
“I think we have to learn how to be successful and how to achieve goals and when I say we need to learn how to be successful it doesn't only mean wins and losses,” Tokarski said. “We had a little bit of a problem last year with improving throughout the year. We came out of the gates pretty quick last year, then we suffered a few hard losses, and I think since they've been so accustomed to getting beat down that it became acceptable. To me, we have to get past that and not accept being mediocre.
“When you've only had three or four wins over the course of a few seasons, you can get complacent. We need to fulfill our desire to get better.”
The Knights play in PIHL Class A and have a good base of experienced seniors to build upon. Bryce Hegedus, the team's leading goal scorer last year, Josh Capets and Jake Swick are all seniors who play forward. Noah Mazur, Anthony Wright and Nick Giatroudakis are senior defenders, and Jarrod Hernadez is the goalie. Hernandez started every game for Norwin last year.
Norwin has 17 skaters and two goalies on its roster.
Hegedus will likely be paired on a line with newcomer Mason Pivarnik, a sophomore who has played with the Esmark Stars U15 AAA traveling team. With the addition of Pivarnik to go along with the experienced Hegedus, Tokarski sees the opportunity for a potent top line.
“Bryce is a really smart kid,” Tokarski said. “He excels in school, and he works hard in everything he does. He comes to all the practices, and he's stepped up as a leader. We want to put Bryce in a good position, and with Mason we're going to increase our skill a little bit. Mason is a fast kid, who knows the game, and when you put him with a player like Bryce it will increase our forward speed. We hope we can break those two guys free and let them play in the offensive zone to take the pressure off of our defense a little bit.”
Getting more offensive zone time will be crucial if the Knights want to have more success. Norwin was outscored 112-39 a season ago, and Hernandez faced 677 shots on goal. Tokarski wants to see better puck management from this team, which will lead to scoring chances.
“That's what I stress is protecting the puck and taking advantage of the opportunities the opponents give us,” Tokarski said. “Something we failed to do last year is get enough shots on net. We are pushing this year for them to get more shots on goal and to get them on net.”
The Knights have a contingent of underclassmen to complement their seven seniors. Jacob Dally will return at forward after being a call-up from junior varsity last year, and junior Luke Russman will move up, as well. Dan Good will provide depth to the defense corps.
“Jacob has improved dramatically, and he's a player to watch out for,” Tokarski said. “Dan is a big strong kid, who is very good at puck control. Luke probably didn't get as much varsity time as he would've liked last year, but he's another big strong kid that has improved dramatically, specifically in his skating and ability to possess the puck.”
Norwin opens the season Tuesday against Fox Chapel at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.