Sewickley Academy hockey continues to improve in 2nd year back
After not fielding a hockey team during the 2011-12 season, Sewickley Academy is back for the second straight season with a new coach.
And the Panthers have strong started, picking up their third win of the season last week by defeating Shady Side Academy, 6-1.
“Everything is falling into place,” first-year coach Tyler Henk said. “These guys are giving 110 percent. I couldn't ask for anything more.”
The Indians struck first and led 1-0 heading into the second period. But goals from Erik Dietrich, Pat Bowles and Willie Paul put Sewickley Academy up by two in the second period. Alex Pfiefer scored twice and Bowles added his second goal to put the game out of reach in the third.
“It was a slow start,” Pfiefer said. “But we started grinding pucks in deep and working hard to get loose pucks. We were short a few guys so it took a little bit to get the gears moving.”
It was the second win over Shady Side Academy this season for the Panthers as they defeated the Indians, 7-2, on Nov. 22. Sewickley Academy will see the Indians three more times during the regular season.
“It definitely helps getting wins over them early,” Connor Zierden said. “But playing them so much, they will learn our forechekcs and the way we play. We are going to need to change it up a little each game.”
As a member of the Independent School Hockey League, Sewickley Academy also will play Kiski School, Linsly School and Western Reserve this season.
Pfiefer (four goals and three assists) and Bobby Haponwicz (three goals and four assists) lead the 17-player team in points with seven.
Henk stepped in as coach after Ryan Patrick became the hockey director at Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena and resigned. Patrick led the Panthers to a 5-5 mark in 2012-13.
Henk previously played hockey at Bethel Park and Wheeling Jesuit and coached various middle school and travel teams. Henk credited assistant coach Lou Pessolano — in his eighth season with Sewickley Academy — with his transition into the team.
“(Henk) has helped keep the team together,” Zierden said. “We have had to deal with new head coaches the last few years so we have been used to working with that.”
And despite being in this first season, Henk expects big things as the team continues to grow.
“We can beat anybody if we keep our intensity up,” Henk said. “We will be able to beat the top teams and go far in the playoffs.”
The Panthers return to the ice Jan. 8 as they play host to Kiski School at 6 p.m.