Unger leading talented crop of Bishop Canevin forwards

Nathan Smith
| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Randy Unger was skeptical about the Bishop Canevin hockey team heading into the season.

The Crusaders lost four of their top six point producers from last season and needed to rely on several underclassmen to step into key roles and produce.

But with a 7-1 record, the senior forward is comparing the 2012-13 team to the 2010-11 squad – the last Bishop Canevin team to win a Penguins Cup and state title.

“It is reminding me of my freshman year,” Unger said. “This year's team really resembles that team. Once I saw the team on the ice, I knew we had the skill up front to be really good. I don't think any team can match our top two lines. And with Nikita (Meskin) in the net, we have one of the best goaltenders in the league.”

Unger's presence on the team has been a welcomed addition. While he was a member of the team in 2012-13, he was splitting his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite travel team. The hectic schedule led to Unger playing only a handful of games with the Crusaders as a junior.

“I only played five games with (Bishop) Canevin,” Unger said. “If I could go back, I wish I could have played more games with the team. But this year I decided to focus on high school. It is nice not to be away every weekend.”

Unger – whose father Neal played for Bishop Canevin in high school– has been one of the top point producers in Class AA this season. He has accounted for eight goals and 15 assists and his 23 points is tied with Armstrong's Christian Miller and Hunter Grafton on top of the classification.

“(Unger) can handle the puck at top speed,” Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Zielmanski said. “He has the speed to get up the ice and separate himself. He has the ability and vision to finish.

“I told him at the beginning of the year the one thing holding him back is consistently giving effort on back checks. If he can improve that, it could make him an all-around player that will attract attention of junior teams or whatever he wants to do.”

Unger's talents helped Bishop Canevin record its biggest win of the season last week as it defeated previously undefeated Hampton, 4-3. Trailing 3-2 with under three minutes to play, Unger assisted Alex Bosnic on a goal to tie it up before he scored the game-winner a minute later.

“I want to score more goals,” Unger said. “I need to find a way to put the puck in the net more. I have been doing alright in the assist column but my goal is to step up and become more of a sniper.”

Unger – along with fellow senior Garrett Godlewski – is being looked at as a leader within Canevin's group of forwards. The veterans are being paired with underclassmen such as sophomores Bosnic (20 points) and Thomas Krivak (10 points) and freshman Liam Walsh (nine) – as well as junior Blaine Adams (11) – to help guide the youngsters on the ice. The plan has worked as the Crusaders (7-1) have scored at least four goals in every game and have broken 10 goals twice.

If the Crusaders can keep up the production, they might be in line for an extended season.

“Up and down the roster, we have forwards with the ability to finish,” Zielmanski said. “We have seven forwards so there are a lot of combinations we can go with. The older players need to be leaders and hopefully will pass on some knowledge to the younger guys.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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