Central Catholic hopes big season brings back tradition
Last season, Central Catholic won its first section title since 2003. Hoping to build on that success and a rich tradition, the Vikings have set their hopes high this season.
“This season is the 40th season, so we're excited about that,” said head coach Bill Connelly. “It's been a while since we've made it to our ultimate goal of winning a state championship. Given the history of the school and the history of the hockey team, we certainly like to keep that tradition with us at all times.”
Entering a season as long as the PIHL's, Connelly said he want to guard against his players looking too far ahead.
“(We have to) focus on playing well each night,” he said.
Central Catholic lost to Class AAA rival North Allegheny, 3-1, in their opening game of the season Oct. 30. Connelly said it was a good first test against the team ranked No. 1 in the preseason.
If the players can stay healthy and play consistently, Connelly said he thinks the Vikings can put themselves in good standing to compete when the playoffs start.
Last season, Central played in a lot of close games. Connelly said his players are ready to put it in the time and do the little things that could help them take the next step.
“With preparation comes execution,” Connelly said.
One of the new preparation methods Central Catholic is utilizing this season is watching video on Wednesday mornings, when the school has a delayed start time.
“That's a great time to kind of prepare for the next game,” said Neil Carleton.
A challenge facing the Vikings is that 11 players left the team last season — some graduated and some are playing for travel teams. Connelly said he's not worried because he has confidence in the current roster.
Central has three senior defensemen, JK Freyvogel, Dylan Junker and Carleton, who is the team's captain.
“He's going to be a big factor. He can play in any situation. He really dictates the tempo,” Connelly said.
On offense, Central Catholic has strong forwards in seniors Anthony Parrucci and Chris McCambridge and junior Jesse Yeckel.
New players have joined the team, too, and are excited to make a name for themselves.
“We have a lot of spots that have to be filled, but they are definitely capable of filling them,” Parrucci said.
The player turnover has brought a new dynamic to the team, one that's more about teamwork and less about individual achievements.
“Last year, we had a lot of talented players, but this year, I think we could definitely come through as a team,” Parrucci said. “Last year, we forgot about that.”
Carleton agreed with that assessment.
“I think this year's team is a much more coherent team with great team chemistry,” Carleton said. “I think this group of guys is ready to handle the adversity of the season.”