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Thomas Jefferson hockey coach not happy with team after victory over Mars

Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News - Thomas Jefferson's Bradley Delenko gets set for a slapshot during the second period against Mars on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at Blade Runners in Bethel Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald Vezzani Jr.  |  Daily News</em></div>Thomas Jefferson's Bradley Delenko gets set for a slapshot during the second period against Mars on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at Blade Runners in Bethel Park.
Ronald Vezzani Jr. | Daily News - Thomas Jefferson's Daniel Harrold (61) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a first-period goal against Mars on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at Blade Runners in Bethel Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Ronald Vezzani Jr.  |  Daily News</em></div>Thomas Jefferson's Daniel Harrold (61) is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a first-period goal against Mars on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at Blade Runners in Bethel Park.

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There's no denying Mars has been one of the dominant hockey programs in the PIHL the past decade.

The Planets won three straight Penguins Cups from 2009-11 and played in the title game six straight years.

That dominance has continued this year, as Mars came into Thursday's PIHL Class A game against Thomas Jefferson with 22 points that included a win over defending champion Quaker Valley to snap the Quakers' 51-game unbeaten streak.

So you would figure a convincing 6-1 victory over Mars would be something Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Crousey would be giddy over.

Think again.

Crousey lambasted his team after the Jaguars' third straight win and sixth in seven games.

Mars was without its top three scorers — Nicholas Makozy (32 points), Craig Mazzotta (17), Beau Heakins (15) — because of either injury or commitments to their amateur teams. The Planets were forced to play with only nine players.

“We didn't talk about it, but we knew they were short,” Crousey said. “I know I didn't change the way I approached the game, but obviously, it changed for (my players).

“All we wanted to do stick handle rather than get pucks deep and work and tire them out. The leaders on this team didn't want to do it. They wanted to stick handle and be fancy.”

One particular sequence near the end of the game really upset Crousey.

The Jaguars were called for two misconduct penalties (Tommy Kimmick and Nicholas Tamburi) and a double minor (Zach Uhlyar). At one point, TJ had four players in the penalty box.

“At the end of the game, I can't have my three leaders in the box because of stupid penalties,” Crousey said. “We aren't going to win a game in March like that. There is not a chance in heck we will win a game in March playing like that.

“This team has nine seniors and is supposed to be pushing forward to become a better team. At this point, we are not. It was terrible.”

Still, Thomas Jefferson had little problem filling the nets on goalie Tyler Spreng. Uhlyar had two goals and three points, and Daniel Harrold, Brendan Mason, Kimmick and Tamburi added goals.

Nick Ripepi turned away 31 of 32 shots to improve to 7-4-1 and lower his goals-against average to 3.23.

“We have to clean it all up — from the highest guy on the totem pole to the lowest,” Crousey said.

Thomas Jefferson got on the board at 10:20 of the first when Harrold slid the puck past Spreng with 3 seconds left on a power play. TJ made it 2-0 when Kimmick netted his 13th goal of the year on a breakaway.

The Jaguars struck quickly in the second period. Uhlyar beat Spreng stick side to make it 3-0, and 18 seconds later, Tamburi jammed a rebound in to make it 4-0.

A nice touch pass through the crease from Kimmick to Uhlyar in the third made it 5-1.

“Don't get me wrong, I am happy with the points, but I am concerned with where we are at,” Crousey said.

TJ improved to 9-4-1 and in position to grab one of the top four playoff spots and a home game, but that wasn't enough to reassure Crousey.

“We have gone over this year after year to get to a point where maybe we can make some noise in the playoffs, and they want to do that,” Crousey said. “As I said, we won't win in March if we play like that.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib

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