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Greensburg Central Catholic hockey making strides

Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Nick Benjamin (20) checks Greensburg Salem's Matthew Wagner (16) off the puck on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 at Centre Ice Arena in Delmont.

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By Andrew John
Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 7:02 p.m.

After being unable to capture a victory a last season, the Greensburg Central Catholic hockey team has won three games this season.

Although this may not seem like a major progression, the Centurions have faced some adversity during the season.

The major obstacle Greensburg Central Catholic (3-15) has faced is the departure of three skaters.

Since Dec. 5, the Centurions have played with nine skaters and a goaltender.

This forces the Centurions to double or triple shift players on a regular basis and having forwards fall back and play on the backline since the Centurions only have three defensemen.

“They have been definitely improving all season long. They work hard to improve their skills,” third-year coach Tony Marietta said. “We have implemented some strategies and have adapted a system. It has been a factor in our games, even if we don't win, you notice a difference in the score.”

Since losing the three players, the Centurions were able to muster an 8-1 victory over Connellsville on Jan. 27, the second win over Connellsville. Greensburg Central Catholic defeated Connellsville on Nov. 11, 7-0, but their biggest win was when they defeated Keystone Oaks, 4-3, on Nov. 25 in overtime.

“Everybody was obviously overjoyed. They had a few more players than us, who had a little more gas than us,” Marietta said. “We ended up going to overtime and every one of our players dug down deep. It's certainly a highlight of not just the season but since I have come back to coach here at Central.”

Through this trying time at GCC, two players have stood out as leaders — senior forwards Zach Banko and Nick Benjamin.

Benjamin, who was selected as an Open Class all-star and is a four-year varsity starter, leads the Centurions with 47 points, including 28 goals and 19 assists.

“Nick leads by example with his play on the ice. He's a physical force out there,” Marietta said. “He can be inspirational for the other kids on the team when he makes a drive to the net. He pumps up the kids when he is able to get to the net.”

Banko, who hasn't missed a game in his four-year varsity career, may not show up on the score sheet as often but his leadership and veteran presence in the locker room is much needed in a rebuilding program.

“Nick and I like to think of the positives. We don't think of the bad parts of it,” Banko said. “We keep the team upbeat and point out the things we could do better so we can better ourselves as hockey players, especially the younger ones down the road.

“We have done this for four years and we have seen and done it all. We know what's expected and we tell others what has been expected too.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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