Norwin faring well against tough schedule
Just like in its quarterfinal last year, Norwin's hockey team fell to Canon-McMillan last week. The similarities end there.
Three goals for the Big Macs in the final 2:38 of the second period broke open a tie game, as Canon-McMillan continued its hot start to the season with an 8-5 win at Center Ice Arena last Thursday.
Norwin (3-2-0) got a hat trick from Dan Merz, who entered this week as the leading scorer in Class AAA, and goals by Dante Youhon and Marc Swankler in the losing effort, which was a stark contrast to the way the Knights were bowled over by the Big Macs (3-1-0) in last year's playoffs, 9-2.
“The outcome aside, I couldn't have been more pleased with our team,” Norwin coach James Reith said. “We fell behind kind of quick, but we battled back to make it 3-3 in the second. We even came back to make it 6-5, but time just ran out on us.
“The game (against Canon-McMillan) last year, you never had a complete sense that we were in that game. They took it away from us early. This game, you could tell from the chatter on the bench that it was a different situation.”
The Knights did cut the lead to 6-5 with 11:10 remaining on Merz's second power-play goal of the period, which was assisted by Robert Romeo. Norwin hung around for a few more minutes before Carmen Dalesandro completed his hat trick and provided an insurance goal for the Big Macs with 8:56 to play.
Chad Albert stopped 22 of 29 shots for the Knights, while the Big Macs' final goal was scored into an empty net in the final minute of play.
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for Norwin, which on Nov. 12 defeated Shaler, 7-3, after beating defending Penguins Cup champion Bethel Park, 3-2, on Nov. 8.
With two strong games, including one win, against perennial powerhouse programs such as Canon-Mac and Bethel Park, the Knights are off to an ideal start to their season.
“We went into those games with a lot of confidence,” Reith said. “We felt Bethel Park was a big game. They have all those championship banners there for a reason. We knew we had to make good decisions with the puck, and when you do that against the top teams like we have, it builds confidence.”
Norwin's final two games of the month will further test the Knights. The team was scheduled to host unbeaten Seneca Valley on Monday, after this edition's deadline, and then return from Thanksgiving break with a home game at 6:15 p.m. on Nov. 30 against Peters Township, last year's losing finalist in Class AAA.
“I like that we're starting the season like this and facing these challenges,” Reith said. “Already this season, we've had to come back, we've had to play with a lead, and all against top teams. When you go through that as a player, as a coach or as a team, it gives you something to draw from.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.