Penn-Trafford hockey team is finding some early season success
TribLIVE Sports Videos
One might not confuse the Penn-Trafford hockey team with a bunch of chemists, but the Warriors have found the right formula.
Coming off a PIHL Class AAA Penguins Cup semifinal appearance, the Warriors were hit hard by graduation prior to last season. They struggled to a 3-17-1 finish and did not qualify for the playoffs.
With almost everyone back on the ice, Penn-Trafford has morphed into a Penguins Cup contender once again. Through their first nine games, the Warriors (6-3) doubled their win total and are among Class AAA's top teams with 14 points.
So, what's the catalyst for one of the PIHL's biggest turnarounds?
“I think that has a lot to do with everyone having great chemistry,” senior captain Jake Miller said. “Definitely, the development of depth has helped, too. Our second line has been playing well all year.”
Miller was the only regular back from the 2012 semifinal squad, which entered the Penguins Cup playoffs as the top seed but fell to eventual champ Bethel Park, 3-2.
“We had a lot of talent last year. We were just really young,” Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke said. “Last year's team was really all first-year varsity players. It just took time for them to get used to things.
“I am not surprised we've done so well so far. I knew we could do it.”
Even though the Warriors took their lumps, they remained upbeat.
“You learn a lot from losing, I believe. Not that anyone likes to lose, but you learn how to win,” Lehneke said. “It would have been easy for them to just quit. They really didn't.
“It wasn't like we got blown out a lot. We just couldn't get that final push. They worked hard all spring, summer and up until now, and it's paid off.”
Penn-Trafford's players believed the groundwork they laid last season and in the summer would help them make a strong push this winter.
“We knew that we'd all be back together. We just had to keep working, and it'd pay off,” said senior alternate captain Andy Power, who was a call-up in 2012. “It's starting to this year, and we're looking for it to continue.”
The Warriors found some chemistry last year when Jordan Eisenstat, Jonah Graffius and Miller came together on the top line. They remain a force this season with a combined 24 goals and 51 points.
The team found an effective second line this year with Marc Anthony, Dan Cox and Cameron Williams, who did not play high school hockey last season. That trio has produced 13 goals and 21 points.
“We are playing well together, and the second line is putting up points and that helps out a lot,” Miller said. “It was definitely frustrating to play last year and lose that many games. It was tough on the whole team. We worked harder, though, and we are showing that we can be one of the better teams in the league.”
Kenny White, another newcomer, has helped the Warriors on defense, as well. So far, they've outscored opponents 46-28.
“We're just focused and trying to play better in our defensive zone,” Power said. “We are doing the little things this year that we weren't doing last year. We are helping goaltenders (Jake Proskin and Eric Phelps) more, too, and they are playing well, too. All around, it's been a good defensive effort, and we're getting scoring from all three lines.”
Penn-Trafford hopes to make it to the Penguins Cup title game.
“I think anyone could go real far and win in the playoffs. I don't think there's one team that's just so far ahead of everyone. I think all of the teams are pretty close,” Miller said. “We just want to keep this going.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.
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.