Norwin overcomes lack of defensive depth
TribLIVE Sports Videos
This year's Norwin team is not as deep as last year's. But the experience gained in making it to the second round of the PIHL Penguins Cup Championship series is making up for that.
They are also feeling more comfortable with head coach James Reith's high-tempo style.
“On the ice, it helps being able to run our system effectively, and it helps to win hockey games,” said junior defenseman Eli Reith.
Through its first 16 games, the Class AAA Section 3 team was 8-8.
“We feel like we've left some points on the table,” said Reith. “If we can learn from that, and we will, we could be an interesting team to play against in the playoffs, that's for sure.”
The team has improved over the past few months and has adapted to its new makeup.
“I think the challenge for us is that we were inexperienced in a few key positions this year,” said James Reith.
The Knights lost a number of their players to graduation, including two all-star goaltenders.
The critical position has been filled by senior Chad Albert, who is playing his first season for Norwin.
Although he is new, his teammates are confident in his abilities.
“He handles the pressure well,” said Eli Reith. “It's very comforting knowing that you have him in goal.”
Reith is the team's top defenseman, one of only three. Reith,
Christian Slafka and Robert Romeo are logging more minutes than most blue-liners.
“It is a lot to take on, but I wouldn't have it any other way,” said Reith.
The extra ice time has improved their game. Their speed is better and they have cut down on goals and improved on the penalty kill.
“I don't think we're wearing down,” said Reith. “I think we're actually coming into form.”
Norwin has been undisciplined at times and will have to correct the problem before heading to the playoffs.
“We feel that if we can get that straightened out, we'll be in good shape,” said James Reith.
The defensemen have even more pressure to stay disciplined.
“With the amount of time we play, we have to stay out of the box, that's the bottom line,” said Eli Reith.
The lack of depth can sometimes have an affect on the team's endurance.
“We usually come out pretty strong in the first period. We've gotta learn to play the second and third like we do the first period,” said senior center Dan Merz.
Short-handed on defensemen, the players are committed to playing team defense. The Knights also rely on their offensive talent.
“Everyone does what they can for the team,” said Merz.
Merz is team captain and centers the top line, also known as the gold line because of the color of their practice jerseys.
“They're just pure gold because of the points they put up every night,” said Eli Reith.
Merz led the team with 31 goals and 19 assists, including four power-play goals and four short-handed goals through 16 games.
“Dan can do it all,” said James Reith.
“He's really meant a lot to this team. He's contributed offensively every night.” said Eli Reith. “It would be very difficult to be in this place without him.”
Junior wingers Tim Palmer and Dante Youhon have been major contributors, too. Through 16 games, they had 30 and 26 points, respectively.
Merz, Palmer and Eli Reith were selected to the all-star team.
“It's an honor to be selected,” said James Reith. “I think its…a really nice experience that the PIHL puts on for them.”
The team's second line, known as the blue line, is comprised of senior center Marc Swankler (27 points) and junior wingers Alex Moxie and Jonathan Shirley.
The top two lines are dangerous every shift, said James Reith.
The coaching staff feels good about all facets of the team. Now it is just a matter of executing at the right time.
Amanda Iannuzzi is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Locke pitches 8 scoreless innings as Pirates edge Indians
- Pennsylvania’s ‘Grand Canyon’ offers something for everyone
- Court attire can have impact, Allegheny, Westmoreland public defenders say
- Pope’s South American homecoming to spotlight poor, environment
- Pirates trust eye test when voting for all-stars
- Police again looking for missing 75-year-old man
- Ex-teammates say Kessel unfairly criticized
- Biertempfel: Loss of All-Star paper ballots a blow to nostalgia
- Conneaut Lake park turnaround to be arduous task
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Indians, July 5, 2015
- Egypt foiled extremist ‘state’ in Sinai, president says