Freeport hockey team places high priority on puck possession
By Bill West
Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12:36 a.m.
With an abundance of offensive firepower, the Freeport hockey team might encourage a fancier playing style this winter.
The Yellowjackets' top 12 point producers returned after a season in which Freeport went 11-8-2 and made the PIHL Class A quarterfinals. Neither players nor coaches expect Freeport to completely abandon its defense-first attitude, which contributed to the team's 83 goals scored and 55 allowed in 2011-12. But a fluid approach likely will replace a dump-and-chase strategy.
“I'm looking for more puck control,” coach Dave Hepler said. “I'm not going to be happy with just keeping the puck out of our own end. We're looking to get the puck to someone and getting it down the ice with a three-on-two, two-on-one. … Make something happen and get some shots. We're not happy to just ice it and live another day.”
The change should help junior Cole Hepler and senior Greg Newman improve their offensive production. Hepler led the team last season with 18 goals and 18 assists. Newman followed with 12 goals and 14 assists.
After that duo came a series of modest contributors. Nicholas Zidek, now a junior, ranked third on the team with 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists). Justin Drzemiecki (9, 7), Hunter Kepple (6, 9), John Bird (2, 10), Tyler Bonitsky (4, 7) and Brendon Zack (2, 8) also reached the double-digit mark.
“We'll being playing the same role as last year as far as putting the puck in the net,” Cole Hepler said. “But this year, we'll have a couple of lines that'll be able to do the same thing.
“A couple of the younger guys will be able to help us out. It's not going to be just dumping it in and trying to grind it out. We'll be able to make a move and possess the puck.”
Several underclassmen wasted no time in proving their worth.
Freshmen Stone Haberstroh and Michael Frazetta each had a goal in Freeport's only game this season, a 5-2 win over Serra Catholic. And sophomore Ethan Waddell earned two assists in his debut as a full-time contributor.
The depth and experience at the other five positions might benefit Freeport's young goaltenders, who are responsible for replacing four-year starter Cody Lee.
As a senior, Lee faced the fourth-most shots (463) in Class A during the regular season. He excelled, denying 90.3 percent. The Yellowjackets, however, know they can't ask the same of sophomore Dom Digiacobbe and freshmen Matt Huston and Katelyn Hill.
Digiacobbe started in the season opener and finished with 21 saves. While he's Freeport's logical candidate for go-to netminder, Digiacobbe is not expected to stand in goal for every start, as his predecessor did. Dave Hepler said Huston and Hill also will see time in the crease.
As long as Freeport sticks to its puck possession plan, the Yellowjackets shouldn't force any of their goaltenders to shut down opponents.
“I think more goals may come sooner or later,” Drzemiecki said. “If we get our chances, we'll go on offense. But we're definitely more defensive.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.