Plum hockey hopes to rebound from tough start to season
Through four games, the Plum varsity ice hockey team finds itself in unfamiliar waters.
The Mustangs are 0-3-1 and are coming off a tough 4-2 loss to rival Gateway on Nov. 8.
Plum head coach Dave Stonebraker said he's confident his team can turn things around, and it will take focus and determination from both the coaches and players.
“We have stressed to the players they have to put behind them what has happened, and we have to be accountable in every practice and in every shift of every game moving forward,” Stonebraker said.
“I expect this group to do that and react in a positive fashion to the challenge we have ahead of us. I see this team coming out better for what they've been through. This season is not close to being over.”
Plum will have a chance to put one in the win column Thursday, when it takes on Class AA power Latrobe at Kirk S. Nevin Arena in Greensburg. The opening faceoff is set for 9:15 p.m.
Latrobe entered the week 2-0, and it outscored its first two opponents — Moon and Kiski Area — by a combined 11-2.
The Wildcats were to play Franklin Regional on Monday, and the game was to end past the early deadline for this week's edition.
“We, as a team, know what needs to change,” Stonebraker said.
“We've accepted that responsibility and know we are not playing the type of game we need to play. The coaching staff is not afraid to make changes to reach outcomes we know we can achieve as a club.”
Plum and Gateway met three times last year in the Mustangs' first season in Class AA.
Plum won all three games in close fashion, and the Mustangs wanted to continue that victory trend.
But Gateway had other ideas, and the Gators, which entered the game 0-2, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second period.
“We didn't operate at the game speed this team is capable of,” Stonebraker said.
“We allowed the pace and style of the game to be dictated to us. We didn't have one positive shift until about seven minutes to go in the second period. We were a team that was reacting to whatever was thrown at us.”
Plum responded early in the third period with two goals by junior Joe Randazzo within the first 6:19 to cut the Gators' lead to 3-2. The goals were his sixth and seventh of the season.
“We had a very pointed conversation in the locker room between the second and third periods, and to the players' credit, they came out in the third period with a fire in their gut and played better,” Stonebraker said.
“We have to have that fire in our bellies from the beginning of the game and at the beginning of each shift if we are going to win games.”
Plum pulled goaltender James Borriello with under a minute to play, and Gateway senior Cam Cacolice put one in the empty net with 20 seconds left to seal the win for the Gators.
Borriello, a sophomore, got the call in net against Gateway, and he stopped 29 shots.
Senior Taylor Cestra played the first three games for the Mustangs.
“James put in a very good effort (against Gateway) to keep the score where it was,” Stonebraker said. “The final goal wasn't his fault.
“Taylor has played outstanding this season, considering she was peppered with a lot of shots over the first three games of the season.”
Gateway junior Tyler Perhac made 38 saves on 40 Plum shots.
“Tyler took over that game and was the best player on the ice, in my opinion,” Stonebraker said.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.