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Latrobe trio again leads team deep into PIHL Penguins Cup playoffs

| Tuesday, March 12, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Latrobe's Chris Johnson brings the puck up ice as Hampton's Ethan Homitz defends during their PIHL playoff contest March 7, 2013 at Kirk S. Nevin Arena in Greensburg.
The North Hills Indians' Aaron Yeomans (15) moves the puck up ice as Latrobe's Robert Vasinko defends during a game Jan. 28 at the RMU Island Sports Center.

It only seems as if the trio of Shane Brudnok, Josh Singley and Rob Vasinko has been starring for the Latrobe hockey team forever.

Then again, they have played in Mellon Arena — and the site of their greatest triumphs representing the Wildcats has long since been demolished, cleared and turned into a parking lot.

The final remaining links to Latrobe's run of three consecutive Class AA state championships, the high school careers of Brudnok, Singley and Vasinko end this month.

Latrobe played a PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup semifinal Tuesday; the championship is next Wednesday at Consol Energy Center and the state title game three days later in Aston, Pa.

“We've been on the team together for four years now,” Singley said. “Ever since I moved out here in eighth grade, Shane and Rob have been real good friends of mine and always included me in other stuff outside of hockey. They're good buddies.”

A group of buddies who have been the heart of the Latrobe hockey for the past four seasons.

Singley, a forward, was the Wildcats' leading scorer during the past two seasons, their second-leading scorer as a sophomore and had 10 points in four playoff games as a freshman state champion.

Brudnok, a goalie, has played in 82 of Latrobe's 91 PIHL games since joining the team as a freshman, posting 18 regular-season shutouts in that time.

Vasinko, a defenseman, has missed only five regular-season games for Latrobe over the past four years. He's a reliable presence and two-time all-star.

“Put together,” said Vasinko, “the three of us have done some pretty good things.”

In addition to being teammates for Latrobe, Vasinko, Singley and Brudnok also have played together for the Westmoreland Eagles. They helped the U18 Midget AA Eagles reach the semifinals of the state tournament this past weekend.

Singley has been Latrobe's captain as a senior with Vasinko as the alternate captain. Surely, Brudnok would hold a formal leadership role, too, if goalie's were traditionally allowed to have letters stitched on their jerseys.

“Josh is such a good leader, definitely the more serious one on our team,” Brudnok said. “I'm more of a jokester — Josh and Rob, they keep our team ready and prepared for the game. I'm just the guy who keeps them loose and calm and laughing.”

Brudnok's intangible contributions might involve brevity — but his production on it is serious. He went 15-3 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .919 save percentage with three shutouts this regular season.

“Without Shane,” said Singley, “we wouldn't make it as far as we have. We owe it all to him.”

Singley calls Brudnok “the heart and soul” of the Wildcats. He calls Vasinko “the backbone.”

“For four years, he's always been solid for us,” Singley said of Vasinko. “You always can count on him to be consistent and make the right play every time for our team.”

Singley closed out his high school career averaging almost exactly two points per game during the regular season — 62 goals and 103 assists for 165 points in 83 games. He is leaning toward attending Penn State next year to major in engineering and play for the school's club hockey program.

“The way he understands that when the big plays need to be made, he's making them,” said John Winebrenner, who coaches both the Latrobe high school team and the Westmoreland Eagles. “He's a motivation for the team.”

Just like his good buddies Vasinko and Brudnok have been for so long now.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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