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Latrobe hockey team keeps rolling

| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 9:15 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

Don't bother trying to match up against the Latrobe hockey team — line after line, talented player after talented player, the Wildcats keep rolling at you seemingly in waves.

“We don't have to worry about matchups,” Wildcats captain Josh Singley said. “We have enough guys, we just roll our bench ­­— and it works.”

It's worked so well that the deep Wildcats are in first place at 6-1 and are on the short list of teams to beat in PIHL Class AA this season.

Latrobe has outscored opponents, 53-12, has five players averaging at least two points and boasts four more skaters averaging at least one goal. Thirteen players have at least one goal (10 have two or more), and all but two players on the roster have a point.

“A big plus for us is we're getting production from all of our players,” coach John Winebrenner said. “You look around league, most teams have four or five guys who put up points. We have 10 or 12 guys putting points on the board consistently, which makes a big difference.”

Latrobe was almost too deep for its own good to begin the season. With so many players qualified for duty on the first line, discovering the proper combinations took some thought and experimentation.

It wasn't until after the Wildcats' only loss — Nov. 19 to Chartiers Valley — that Winebrenner and his staff shook things up and ultimately settled on the lines they employ now.

“We made some changes in the lineup, and it's made a big difference both in offensive production and on the defensive side of the puck,” Winebrenner said.

No player has been more productive offensively than Singley, a senior who leads Latrobe in goals (11) and assists (13).

Forward Adam Ferguson and defenseman Rob Vasinko serve as alternate captains, and Shane Brudnok is another of Latrobe's senior leaders. Brudnok and Singley are the final key components left from Latrobe's most recent of three consecutive state championships from 2008-10.

A four-year starter at goalie, Brudnok has a 1.73 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

“He's the backbone of our team, and he has been since his freshman year,” Singley said. “We rely on him to step up big for us every night — and he always comes through.”

Ferguson ranks second on the team in goals (nine) and assists (nine). Junior Chris Johnson has eight goals and six assists in Latrobe's seven games, and a pair of freshmen — Dalton Hunter and Brendan Johns — each have 12 points in six games to tie for fourth on the team in scoring.

Junior Nate Winebrenner and sophomores Joe Wright and Can Carr also are valuable forwards. Carr has versatility in that his two-way play translates well to the blue line when Latrobe needs an extra defenseman for a shift or game.

Sophomore Dan Staffen and junior Drew Tonks join Vasinko as the heart of the defensemen corps.

Only about a third of the way through its season, Latrobe has an eight-point grip on the Section 3-AA lead.

The Wildcats also already have defeated two of the other section leaders (Pine-Richland and Moon), and Winebrenner has no reservations about proclaiming that his team is aiming to win every game it plays the remainder of the regular season so it can get the No. 1 seed in the Penguins Cup playoffs.

“The ultimate goal for us is what we've said from Day 1 — to bring another state title back to Latrobe,” Vasinko said.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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