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With small roster, GCC hockey benefiting from co-op with Geibel

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

The Greensburg Central Catholic hockey team has won just two of its eight games this season, and while that record might not impress many, to the Centurions it represents progress.

A year ago, they lost all 22 of their games in the PIHL's Class A. Now, as members of Section 3 in the league's Open Division, they're 2-6, owners of a pair of victories with 12 games still left to play.

“I think we're having a productive year, and I'm happy with how far they've come,” third-year coach Tony Marietta said. “The boys seem really dedicated. ... By the end of the season, I don't think most people will be able to recognize us from the preseason. So I'm pretty happy with the direction things are going.”

GCC beat Connellsville, 7-0, on Nov. 11 and came away with a 5-4 overtime win over Keystone Oaks on Nov. 25. On average, the Centurions have scored almost four goals per game while allowing 7.5. The latter total took hits from a 13-4 loss to Greensburg Salem and a 16-4 loss to Indiana.

The Centurions will meet the two teams that dealt them their worst defeats again this year. Considering the seemingly constant improvement of first-year goalie Patrick Teich and a more effective offensive attack, Marietta is hoping “to see that gap close quite a bit.”

The Centurions play next Jan. 2 against Gateway.

“Our goalie is really starting to do a bang-up job in the net,” Marietta said. “We're starting to really generate some offense now, which is starting to alleviate some of the pressures on defense. And we're generating a decent amount of shots. Now we're working on just capitalizing on those chances.”

Depth, however, is a problem. Even with the co-op with Geibel Catholic that's permitted in the Open Division, GCC began the season with a small roster, which shrank further when brothers Nicholas and Adam Frank parted from the team in mid-season. The Centurions only have 10 players: six forwards, three defenseman and one goaltender.

Marietta mentioned his short bench and the longer, 17-minute periods the PIHL instituted last year when explaining the blowout loss to Indiana.

“It's been really hard,” said senior forward and alternate captain Nicholas Benjamin, who leads GCC with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists). “In the third period, it really takes a toll.”

Greensburg Central Catholic has been tested more in Open Division play than it was expecting. But the Centurions have received positive contributions from Geibel additions Teich, forward Chris Martin and defenseman Neil Solan, meaning the drop in divisions did bring benefits.

“I've been very impressed,” Marietta said. “All three of the Geibel boys, this is their first year of ice hockey, and they had a lot to learn coming in but they've busted their butts to catch up with the rest of the team real quickly.”

Improvement is the factor by which Greensburg Central Catholic is judging this season. With two wins, the Centurions have taken noticeable steps forward.

“I mean, we're doing better than last year,” Benjamin said. “We didn't have any wins last year. And we're down to nine (skaters) right now, so it's kind of tough. But I think we're doing pretty good.”

Mark Emery is a freelance writer.

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