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Penn-Trafford surprises Knights for season split

| Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, 2:10 p.m.
Norwin Star
Norwin's Tim Palmer is unable to play the puck as his stick gets lifted by Penn-Trafford's Jake Miller during the third period of the Knights' 9-6 loss on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 at Center Ice Arena. Matt Grubba | Norwin Star
Norwin Star
Norwin forward and Class AAA leading scorer Dan Merz skates toward Penn-Trafford defenseman Jake Graffius during the Knights' 9-6 loss on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 at Center Ice Arena. Matt Grubba | Norwin Star
Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford's Jonah Graffius cuts toward the Norwin goal on his way to the first of two shorthanded goals he scored in the Warriors' 9-6 win on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 at Center Ice Arena. Matt Grubba | Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford's Michael Granata, at left, skates through the stick check of Christian Slafka during a 9-6 Penn-Trafford win on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 at Center Ice Arena. Matt Grubba | Penn-Trafford Star

Once again, a rivalry game proved that the records mean very little between familiar foes.

Penn-Trafford dominated on special teams by scoring four power-play goals and two shorthanded goals on the way to its second win of the season, a 9-6 victory over Norwin at Center Ice Arena on Monday.

Jake Miller and Jonah Graffius each had a hat trick, Tyler Wyckoff scored two goals, and Jacob Proskin made 37 saves to pick up the win in net for the Warriors (2-12-0), who lost their season-opening game against Norwin, 11-3, in the same building on Nov. 1.

“We're starting to play a lot better now that a lot of these young guys have gotten their feet wet,” Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke said. “We still haven't lost sight of our goal of making the playoffs, and we're only a few points behind the last seed (Mt. Lebanon, at 4-11-0) right now.”

Marc Swankler had two goals and an assist for Norwin (8-8-0), which lost its third straight game and drifted out of the top eight in Class AAA for the first time this season.

“It seemed like the first guy was getting to the puck for us, but the second guy wasn't there supporting. That second guy not being there is the biggest issue I see right now,” said Norwin assistant coach Steven Butler, who was filling in behind the bench for head coach James Reith, who was out of town.

Norwin took an early 1-0 lead on Swankler's first goal, but P-T pulled ahead with Miller's first two tallies. Dante Youhon scored with 1:33 remaining to make the score 2-2 after the first period.

The Knights pulled ahead again, 4-2, when Robert Romeo and Tim Palmer scored early in the second period, but Miller scored soon afterward to complete his hat trick.

One of Miller's first-period goals came on the power play, but the second period is when the Warriors took control on special teams.

Wycoff tied the game again with a power-play goal, and Graffius put Penn-Trafford ahead with a shorthanded goal after Andrew Power forced a Norwin turnover.

The third period was more of the same, as Jordan Eisenstat and Wycoff scored power-play goals, and Graffius netted his second shorthanded goal to give the Warriors an 8-4 lead with 11:23 remaining in the game. For the game, P-T was a perfect 4-for-4 on the power play, while Norwin went 0-for-5 and allowed the two shorthanded goals.

“Jonah and Jake Miller have been doing a nice job as two of our top penalty killers, and really we've done a good job all-around with that,” Lehneke said. “And I'll tell you what, Jonah definitely has a knack for scoring shorthanded.”

“The shorthanded goals really killed us,” Butler said. “Those were just a few mental mistakes that cost us.”

The Knights remain in a good position heading toward the playoffs, though they have just six regular-season games remaining, the fewest in Class AAA. The team hits the road on Thursday at 8 p.m. to face winless Erie McDowell at Mercyhurst College.

“They may have given up their chances for a bye in the first round with this loss, but they still have a good chance to get a home playoff game,” Butler said.

“Coming back quickly (with another game) is good, but to lose a rivalry game is never good. They just have to come to play in Erie and give 100 percent.”

Penn-Trafford also faces McDowell in its next game with a chance to close to within two points of Mt. Lebanon, but it hosts the team from Erie at 8:15 p.m. on Friday.

“This win was big for us. Not only is it a big rivalry for us, but Norwin's got a pretty good team over there,” Lehneke said. “You never know what can happen. We just have to take it one game at a time, and these guys have to keep getting better and better every game.”

All-stars named

Norwin and Penn-Trafford had players selected for the PIHL Class AAA All-Star Game to be played at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Feb. 10.

The Knights had senior forward Dan Merz, junior forward Tim Palmer and junior defenseman Eli Reith picked for the Northeast Conference team, and Penn-Trafford will be represented on the same team by junior forward Jake Miller.

Penn-Trafford junior Andrew Power was one of two alternate defensemen selected for the Northeast team, and Norwin coach James Reith and Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke both were picked to be assistant coaches for the team under head coach Mike Guenter of Butler.

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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