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In-line hockey squad struggles through rough stretch

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 9:46 p.m.

The holidays are always a festive time for celebrating the season with family and friends. For the Southmoreland Varsity hockey team, the holiday stretch was a bit on the downside.

The Scotties finished the month of December with a 1-3 record and have gone from near the top of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Roller Hockey League Varsity 2 division standings, all the way down to the middle of the pack with a 5-6-0-3 record. Southmoreland now sits in 10th place overall in the 20-team division, one point behind Mars and three points out of eighth place, behind West Allegheny.

Hampton leads the division with a 13-2 record, and has won 12 games in a row heading into this weekend's action.

Southmoreland has lost its last four games, compiling a 0-2-0-2 record in the last four contests. Two of those losses came in overtime, which makes losing the game a little easier to swallow, but for coach C.J. King and his squad, it is a bitter pill that doesn't sit well with the defending Varsity 2 champions.

“We have been in the games, but we have come up short recently,” said King. “We will have to put forth a better effort and work harder in practice if we expect to climb back up the division standings and make a run in the playoffs again.”

The Scotties started the month of December well with a 5-1 win over Seneca Valley. But since then, it has been a tough road to travel for Southmoreland.

Despite two goals apiece from Jeremy Suitor and David Miller, Southmoreland lost a heartbreaking 5-4 overtime thriller to Hempfield on Dec. 9, and the Scotties have failed to recover from that game, dropping three straight games since then.

On Dec. 15, the Scotties gave the Deer Lakes Lancers all that they could handle, before falling 4-3.

The latest loss came at the hands of West Allegheny Jan. 6 as the Scotties came back from the holiday break with a bit of a hangover. The team did not look sharp and no one from Southmoreland could find a solution for J.D. Gazella, who scored six goals for West Allegheny on its way to a 8-2 rout of the Scotties. Gazella now has 31 goals and seven assists, good for 38 points on the season.

Southmoreland out shot West Allegheny 42-28, but couldn't solve goaltender Matt Bryan. Bryan turned away 40 of the 42 shots he faced, and West Allegheny put a little distance between itself and the Scotties with a convincing win.

For Southmoreland, Jordan Sandzimier scored the first Scottie goal midway through the second period, and Jacob Miller recorded his first-ever P.I.R.H.L. goal late in the contest.

Tanner Skovira stopped 20 shots in the game. Skovira ranks ninth in goals against in the Varsity 2 division. He has allowed 58 goals in 14 games between the pipes, and has allowed only 4.09 goals per game to Southmoreland opponents.

Jeremy Suitor is the leading scorer for the Scotties. Suitor currently ranks 11th in the scoring race in the Varsity 2 division with 22 points.

Southmoreland is hoping that the return of junior Brady King to its lineup will spark another late season run and propel the team back into contention.

“Making the playoffs is huge,” said King. “Once you get in, anything can happen.”

In order for the Scotties to make anything happen, they will have to play well on the road. The team plays four of its next five games in Harmarville and at the Robert Morris University sports complex.

Mark King is a freelance writer.

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