Norwin hockey team working through depth, experience issues
The Norwin hockey team knew the 2013-14 season would be difficult, given the graduation of several key players from recent teams.
So far, the results are matching the Knights' expectations.
Norwin entered the week with an 0-7 record, having been outscored 43-12 in its first seven games of the season. After finishing 11-10 last season, the Knights are dealing with a lack of depth and a lack of experience at several key positions this year.
“Some of those players are kind of finding their way and learning, and they're making great strides,” coach Jim Reith said. “For us, we had to work with our system and make adjustments, and we've done that. We keep getting better, and that's kind of where we are. Certainly we're disappointed with the record, (but) we kind of knew it was going to be a struggle early on here.”
The Knights' lack of depth comes as a result of high graduation numbers and a low amount of replacements. As a result, Norwin is fielding one of the smallest rosters in Class AAA.
“You're not a team that can give up 30 to 35 shots,” Reith said. “You're kind of worn down by that right there. You're throwing out two or three defensemen, and really we only have a line and a half of experienced players up against another team's group. And that's what's hurting us right now.”
The depth issues usually hurt Norwin toward the middle and end of games, Reith said. The Knights held first-period leads in four of their first seven games, and a game against Butler last week were scoreless midway through the second period before the Golden Tornado exploded for a 7-0 victory.
While Norwin is having trouble scoring goals, Reith said part of the problem is that key players are playing heavy amounts of minutes. Jon Shirley and Timmy Palmer are tied for the team lead with four goals, and Palmer and Dante Youhon share the lead with six points.
“They're out there a ton, and it's definitely an issue,” Reith said. “I'd like to see more out of them offensively, and they know it, too. ... They're playing very well, but we're challenged scoring goals.”
Despite the results and the underlying problems, Reith said he is seeing improvement, most notably in goaltender Anthony Barca. The sophomore, getting his first taste of experience at the varsity level, had stopped 79 percent of the shots he faced in six games entering this week.
“With our goaltending right now, they're making tremendous progress from where we were,” Reith said. “That's a tough position right there. It takes years and years and years to learn it. We asked them because of a numbers situation to play at a (Class) AAA varsity level, and (they're) doing really well for their experience and making a lot of progress.”
Reith said the team's defense also is performing well through the start of the season.
Norwin played Shaler on Tuesday night, in a game that ended past the deadline for this week's edition. The Knights will host North Allegheny at 6:15 p.m. Friday at Center Ice Arena before a two-week break for the holidays. Norwin will return to action with a game against Shaler Jan. 3 at Center Ice.
Reith said the team would spend the holiday break working on special teams. He said the team would also work to duplicate its strong efforts in first halves of games in the second halves.
“We just hope as the season keeps progressing on that we can maybe begin to steal a game here or there,” Reith said. “We're not waving a white flag. We know the teams we play are very good, but we hope to surprise a few as we continue on.”