Penn-Trafford hockey off to hot start
TribLIVE Sports Videos
After a three-win season in 2012-13, things are looking up for the Penn-Trafford hockey team a third of the way through the 2013-14 season.
The Warriors (5-2) entered the week in first place in Section 3-AAA and outscoring opponents by a 39-23 margin.
“It's been a lot better,” captain Jake Miller said of the season. “It's great to win, especially (after) having three last year. We have more wins than we did last year, and I just think we're a whole new team, honestly. Everyone got a season under their belt, and everyone's been playing great.”
Coach Brian Lehneke summed up the difference between this season's team and the one that struggled to a 3-17-1 finish a year ago with one word: experience. After making a run to the Class AAA Penguins Cup semifinals in 2011-12, most of Penn-Trafford's roster graduated, leaving the Warriors with few experienced players last season.
“We saw all last year that they were skilled enough,” Lehneke said. “The age difference means a lot when a ninth-grader is playing against an 18-year-old senior. It's a little different this year; we have a little bit more older guys. We know what to expect. A lot of the kids, except for our captain, weren't even on the team two years ago. They didn't know what to expect. Now they know, they got their feet wet and they're doing exactly what we asked them to do.”
Lehneke said the experience can especially be seen on the offensive end. After averaging fewer than three goals per game last season, the Warriors are averaging more than five a game so far this year.
The top line of Miller, Jonah Graffius and Jordan Eisenstat is leading the offensive charge. Miller leads PIHL Class AAA with 18 points (five goals, 13 assists), one spot ahead of Graffius (nine goals, eight assists). Eisenstat is tied for third in the classification with 12 points (seven goals, five assists).
“I think we break out the puck very well,” Miller said. “Me and Jonah just seem to find each other on the ice. The same (is true) with Jordan. We just click, and we've been scoring every game pretty much.”
Penn-Trafford is getting production beyond its top line. The second line of Cameron Williams, Daniel Cox and Marc Anthony is coming on strong, and defenseman Andrew Power is tied for seventh in Class AAA with 11 points (three goals, eight assists).
“When you're (playing) winning hockey, you have more than one line scoring,” Lehneke said. “You get secondary scoring. That helps a lot.”
Defensively, Penn-Trafford is relying on a goaltender tandem of junior Eric Phelps and senior Jake Proskin. Phelps started five of the first seven games, recording a 4-1 record with a 2.80 goals-against average and .895 save percentage.
“We're pretty much emphasizing defensive play, and we're trying to get that better, too,” Lehneke said. “Our goals-against are a lot better in the last five or six games.”
Penn-Trafford was off this week and is scheduled to return to the ice with a game against Bethel Park Dec. 5 at Center Ice Arena in Delmont.
While the Warriors appear poised to return to the playoffs, Miller said the team isn't getting ahead of itself.
“We're just going from game to game, trying to win every game and see where it goes from there,” he said.
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.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.