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Serra Catholic hockey team prepares for season with new coach

| Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 10:45 p.m.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News
Serra Catholic's Jonthan Henschel moves the puck down ice against Mars during the PIHL playoffs Wednesday, March 6, 2013, at Blade Runners in Warrendale .

There is a new face of the Serra Catholic hockey team this season.

After working under Brian Boehm the past four seasons, Dennis Tokarski takes the reins as Eagles' coach for the 2013-14 campaign.

Coming off a 12-12 season in which Serra advanced to the Penguins Cup Class A quarterfinals, Tokarski inherits a team with just one senior and will attempt to give his squad a bit of a different identity this year.

“We want to defend as much as possible, so we want to shore up the defense, make sure we're playing good solid defense and taking advantage of our scoring opportunities when they arise,” Tokarski said.

The defense will be led by the team's lone senior, Jacob Gunn. Not only will Gunn be called upon to lead with his play but also to mentor freshman defenders Mike Ulishney and Richard Ware.

“My expectation for him is to run the show, be the guy on defense, put a lot of minutes in, and he'll be expected to play a good solid defense and do the right things,” Tokarski said of Gunn.

Offensively, the Eagles lost their top two scorers from a year ago, but Roman Kraemer and his 25 goals return. Jon Henschel, Jon Lesnak and Ryan Bennett also will contribute at forward.

“I think we're going to see a lot out of Henschel and Kraemer,” Tokarski said of the linemates. “Roman is just maturing more and more as the season goes on— even from last season — and I think putting him on a line with Jon Henschel is just going to open up things and provide opportunities for Roman.”

That maturity was on display in the St. Margaret Foundation Fall Face-Off Tournament. Kraemer chipped in five of the Eagles' seven goals despite going 0-3 against a tough slate of opponents while hamstrung by a limited roster.

Goaltender Ian Ritchie returns, and Tokarski said he expects him to steal a game or two with his play in net.

“Our goaltending, with Ian Ritchie coming back — I'm expecting a lot out of him, a lot of leadership along with just being big in the net,” he said.

While Class A has been dominated by Mars and Quaker Valley, Tokarski is optimistic about his first season as Eagles' coach.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs; that's No. 1,” he said. “We'd like to win our section and make the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, it's a whole new season.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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