Penn-Trafford hockey team strives for rebound season
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
In comparison to a Penguins Cup semifinal appearance in 2011-12, the Penn-Trafford hockey team's 2012-13 campaign looks like a disappointment.
However, Warriors coach Brian Lehneke knows the deeper story behind his team's 3-17-1 record a season ago.
“There was really only one kid on our roster last year from that semifinalist team,” Lehneke said. “A couple of them were called up throughout the year (during the semifinal run), but our captain Jake Miller was the only returning player from that team. So we had a lot of skill; (we were) just very young.”
A year later, Lehneke believes the experience the players gained last year will provide a benefit in 2013-14.
In fact, he's already seeing such benefits.
“We've played about eight preseason games,” he said. “We won the (Greensburg Central Catholic) tournament this year, and we haven't lost yet in the preseason. We have one tie. You can definitely see the difference of what a year makes.”
Lehneke said the most tangible difference is in the team's scoring ability. The Warriors scored 62 goals last season, averaging fewer than three goals per game.
“I believe we're going to be able to score more goals than we did last year,” he said. “We seem to be doing a better job in the offensive zone of controlling the puck, and we've really been focusing on the defensive zone more than anything. You can just tell their confidence scoring goals (has) come a long way from a year ago. We have more than one line scoring so far in the preseason.”
Penn-Trafford will look for its top line to pace the team in scoring. Miller, Jordan Eisenstat and Jonah Graffius were put together on the top line during the second half of last season and flourished together. Miller and Graffius tied for the team lead with 26 points, while Eisenstat added 24 points. Each player scored at least 13 goals.
“They haven't lost anything,” Lehneke said. “They're just picking up where they left off last year.”
On the blue line, Penn-Trafford will be led by Andy Power, who was a frequent call-up during the 2011-12 semifinal run and who tallied five goals and 12 points in 17 games last season.
Senior Jake Proskin and junior Eric Phelps again look to split time in net this season.
“I think we have a good all-around group,” Lehneke said. “We definitely have some young talent. They've gained some experience from last year.”
Lehneke said only two members of the team this year are newcomers: Cameron Williams and Kenny White.
Penn-Trafford began its regular season with a game against Shaler on Tuesday at Bladerunners in Harmarville. The contest ended past the deadline for this week's edition.
The Warriors will host Pittsburgh Central Catholic at 7:45 p.m. Thursday and State College at 6:15 p.m. Friday, with both games taking place at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.
While the Warriors missed the PIHL postseason last year, they fell short of qualifying by just three points.
Lehneke believes with the number of players returning from last season, Penn-Trafford should be primed to return to the postseason.
“I always try to build on expectations, with things we should accomplish,” he said. “I always start out with our division. But I really think we can make the playoffs this year after missing them. I really think we can have a chance to play for the Penguin Cup. That's all I ask of these guys.
“Last year, we fell short of one of our main goals, (which was) to make the playoffs. This year, I really think we have a chance to at least play for that Penguin Cup. Once you get in that chance, you never know what's going to happen.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.
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