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Franklin Regional striving for improved season

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:52 p.m.
(c) 2012 Lillian DeDomenic
Franklin Regional senior Austin Avampato, right, reaches his stick across to try and take the puck from Latrobe's Robert Vasinko during the teams' meeting at Center Ice Arena on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. Lillian DeDomenic | For the Tribune-Review

Still seeking its first win of the year, Franklin Regional's hockey team is gearing up for a busy December.

The Panthers, whose most recent outing was a 14-1 loss at the hands of Latrobe on Nov. 12, are in the midst of a three-week stretch without a game, as the team doesn't return to action until a game against Plum on Dec. 3 at 8:20 p.m at the Pittsburgh Ice Arena.

That gives Franklin Regional (0-3-0), which is trying to improve on a one-win season in 2011-12, plenty of time to regroup heading into a stretch of five games in 19 days next month.

“We play some tough teams in December, so that's going to be a true test for us,” Franklin Regional coach Anthony DeFazio said.

“What we did the last two games was unacceptable, so we're going to go in and evaluate some things we can change. But the guys are working hard, and the attitude is there that we have to work to do it ourselves.”

What DeFazio would like to see more of are performances similar to the Panthers' season opener on Oct. 29, when the team rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game before falling, 7-6, against Kiski Area.

Close games and wins will come in time, DeFazio said, if the players continue to show the same work ethic they did in the build-up to the season.

“The majority of our kids came in during the summer and worked hard in our dry-land training and a mini-camp we had,” DeFazio said. “We believe we can compete, and they're working hard to do it.”

This year's Panthers are a young team with only two seniors among their ranks. One of those seniors, Nico Cecere, is the captain of this year's team and its leading scorer with four goals and an assist so far this season.

“The leadership from Nico and (senior) Cameron Ekiert has been tremendous. They've really stepped up to help organize the younger guys,” DeFazio said. “(Junior) Austin Avampato and Nico are really playing well on a line together; we just need to find some more lines that work after them.”

Enough talent is in the program for the team to rack up some wins this season, DeFazio said, and he is backing up his belief in his players by setting a tough goal for them.

“Last year, at the heart of our program was changing the attitude and believing we could win,” DeFazio said. “This year, we're committed and think we can compete. It might be a lofty goal, but we're trying to go .500 this year, and this month coming up is going to be a big part of whether we can do that.”

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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