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Norwin hockey starts season with win over Penn-Trafford

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 8:55 p.m.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Norwin captain Dan Merz leads a rush up the ice in the Knights' 11-3 win over Penn-Trafford to open the season on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 at Center Ice Arena. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Norwin forward Alex Moxie opened the season with a three goal, two assist performance in the win over Penn-Trafford at Center Ice Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Lillian DeDomenic | For The Norwin Star
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic (c) 2
Norwin goalie Chad Albert stopped 18 of 21 shots to win his regular-season varsity debut against Penn-Trafford at Center Ice Arena on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 Lillian DeDomenic | For the Norwin Star

The Knights came out flying to open the 2012-13 hockey season.

Norwin scored six goals in a 9-minute, 30-second stretch during the first period to take control for an 11-3 win over rival Penn-Trafford in the season opener for both teams last Thursday at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.

Alex Moxie, Marc Swankler and Dan Merz all posted hat tricks, while Tim Palmer netted the other two goals for Knights, who lost all three meetings with the Warriors last season.

Norwin dominated the game from the beginning and took the first 10 shots on goal in the game. But the Warriors responded with a goal against the run of play, as Patrick Cortazzo put home the rebound of a shot by Jacob Miller, which was P-T's first shot in the game.

The Penn-Trafford lead lasted only 19 seconds, however, as Swankler finished off a play with assists from Jonathan Shirley and Moxie to tie the game, 1-1.

“Straight away, I thought we started well by taking the first (10) shots. We wanted to take care of the puck in the neutral zone and force it deep into their end,” second-year Norwin coach Jim Reith said. “Even when (P-T) got that chippy first goal, I like the way the team bounced back, and we kind of took off from there.”

The Knights did take off, with goals by Palmer, Merz and Moxie all coming in the next two minutes to open up a 4-1 lead. Penn-Trafford responded with an unassisted goal on a Michael Granata slap shot, but Merz and Moxie scored late in the period to end the first with a 6-2 lead.

For the game, both Moxie and Swankler ended with five points, Merz and Palmer had four, and Shirley had a team-high three assists.

The start is just what the Knights wanted for this season, as they try to build off a winning season and an appearance in the PIHL Class AAA quarterfinals last season. With an even mix of veterans and new players from last year's team, the foundation is in place for another successful Norwin hockey season.

“We got hit a little hard by graduation, but I like our top six (forwards),” Reith said. “All of them played last year, and we have a couple of defensemen that we can put out there and they go and go. We feel good about who we have, and we want to see where it will take us.”

Merz was chosen by his team as this year's captain, and he will be one of those key forwards, along with players such as Swankler, Dante Youhon and Palmer, who was a PIHL all-star last season.

“Danny (Merz) is a guy that we expect a big year from, and he came out with a big offense game. He makes a lot happen every time he touches the puck, and he's got a lot of speed and great hands,” Reith said.

“Timmy Palmer is another guy that should have a big year. We won the Greensburg Central Catholic (Preseason) Tournament for the second year in a row, and he was probably the best player on the ice for us throughout that tournament.”

On the blue line, Robert Romeo and Eli Reith will be two of the Knights' top defensemen this season, and both pitched in with an assist in the win over Penn-Trafford.

In net, Chad Albert got the nod in goal to open the season, and the senior first-year starter performed well by turning away 18 of 21 shots. The Knights also have sophomore goalie Joe Powell, who should see plenty of JV and some varsity action this year, as Norwin replaces its two senior goalies from last season.

“Chad started all six games in the Greensburg tournament, and we're working very hard with him,” Jim Reith said. “He's the starter, but we think Joe can push him, as well. We like that competition.”

In Section 3-AAA, Norwin again will be competing with defending champion Penn-Trafford, Hempfield and State College, another playoff team from 2012.

Penn-Trafford was hit hard by graduation from its team that finished with the best record in Class AAA and reached the semifinals before being upset by Bethel Park, while Hempfield, which missed the playoffs last year and dropped its opener against Central Catholic, 7-1, is still in a rebuilding mode.

State College, which had not played its opener entering this week, likely will be the biggest competitor with Norwin for the section title behind the scoring of returners Dalton Bown and Stefan Horgas, both of whom were among Class AAA's top scorers a year ago.

But the Knights aren't yet talking about playoff spots or section titles. Instead, their coach said, the team is focused on improving its own level of play so that it can put together a run when the postseason does arrive.

“We said, even coming into (the Penn-Trafford) game, that we have things we want to accomplish within our system,” Jim Reith said. “If we can stick to the way we play our best, I like to think that can take us far.”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or mgrubba@tribweb.com.

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