Franks becoming Chartiers Valley's all-around threat
The teacher-student relationship between Chartiers Valley hockey coach Sean Biancaniello and Anthony Franks goes beyond the rinks of the PIHL as the junior forward is a student in the first-year coach's algebra class.
While Biancaniello teaches complex equations in the classroom, he used a simple formula on why Franks is having a breakout season for the Colts.
“The one things about him that speaks volumes is his natural ability to create scoring opportunities,” Biancaniello said.
“With his size and skills with the puck, he is probably one of the best in the league. He has been able to create plays this year in the dirty areas along the boards and in front of the net, and it has taken his game to a new level.”
Franks is quickly rising to be one of the top forwards in the PIHL's Class AA.
So far this season, he has recorded 14 goals and 11 assists. The 25 points is fifth best in the classification.
Franks was a major part of the Chartiers Valley's success in the 2011-12 season. As a sophomore, he recorded 10 goals and 21 assists. That was second on the team to Justin Sabilla's 72 points — a PIHL Class AA best.
It was a slow process for Franks to become a scoring threat but grew into the role late in the season.
“I started realizing on a hockey team in any league it is a team effort,” Franks said.
“(Sabilla) was great last year but if he was off one night, I knew I would have to step up and put the puck in the net. Guys like Cullen (McMahon) and myself were guys who could do that.”
With Sabilla graduating, the Colts needed production and Franks was one of the guys the new coaching staff looked at to lead the charge. Franks said he embraced the role as a leader of the Colts' offense.
“I was hoping to have a big year points wise because that is my job on the team,” Franks said. “The team's success matters more to me than personal stats. My job is to score goals, and that is what I was hoping to do.”
While his ability to produce points has Franks headed for an all-star season, it is his development on defense that is gaining his coach's praise. Biancaniello came into his first season wanting to change up the defensive scheme used by the Colts, and Franks has been a catalyst.
“He's blocking shots,” Biancaniello said. “He's winning faceoffs. He is helping down low in the defensive zone, getting control of the puck and creating breakouts. When I see that kind of stuff in the defensive zone, it is a good thing. Everything starts clicking after that.”
Franks said he set a personal goal of becoming more of a well rounded player this season. While he knew he had the offensive skills to help the team, improving on the other side of the ice became a priority.
“One of the best compliments anyone can give me is telling me I am a good two-way hockey player,” Franks said.
In addition to an increased level of play on defense, Franks has also shown a greater maturity on the ice. Last season, he showed fieriness that often led to penalties and time off the ice. A year later he is showing the composure of a veteran player.
“Maybe it's because I have him in math class, but we have a great rapport together and I am able to talk him through times where he is about ready to lose it,” Biancaniello said. “He is able to pull it back together and sometimes when he does, he plays even better. Watching his maturity especially early in the season, is encouraging.”
Biancaniello added that Franks' decision making has improved greatly. Last season, Franks' would try to use a deke on his attack often and became what Biancaniello described as “predictable.”
“”He was trying to go inside out or outside in and he would lose speed and by the time he would be trying doing all that, the play would be past him,” Biancaniello said. “What he is doing a great job of is not forcing stick handling. And when he is attacking on the rush, his decisions have been much better.”
While Franks continues to work on his personal game, he sees the growth of the team around him. With talented scorers, a strong defense and a veteran goalie, confidence is high amongst the Colts, now 6-2 on the season.
Franks said he has little doubt this will be the season the Colts crack the glass ceiling it has met in the Class AA Penguins Cup semifinals the past two seasons.
“The team has kind of taken up the motto ‘this is the year,'” Franks said. “We feel we are really strong this year. We think this might be one of the best teams Chartiers Valley has seen. We want to show we can finish and live up to our potential. We believe we are a Penguins Cup contender.”
The Colts return to the ice tonight, Thursday, as they travel to West Allegheny. The puck drops at 8:30 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.