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Penn-Trafford hockey looking to end slide

| Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014, 10:03 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | for the Penn-Trafford Star
Penn-Trafford forward Steven Cheswick battles with a State College defender during a game Nov. 1, 2013, at Center Ice Arena.

The Penn-Trafford hockey team finds itself in a bit of a scoring — and winning — drought.

Since clinching a PIHL Class AAA playoff berth with a 4-3 victory over Pittsburgh Central Catholic on Feb. 4, the Warriors (11-8) had lost four straight games heading into Tuesday night's game against Peters Township. Penn-Trafford dropped 3-2 decisions to Norwin and North Allegheny, lost, 7-4, to Canon-McMillan and fell, 8-1, to Butler in its most recent game last week.

“This is a pretty big test for our team,” Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke said. “We're going to really find out what we're made of going into the end of the season and into the playoffs. We're struggling scoring goals, and we just need to focus on the things we were doing at the beginning of the season, the first half of the season, as we continue on.”

One of the Warriors' biggest problems in their recent slide, Lehneke said, was their inability to score. Penn-Trafford ranks second in Class AAA with 102 goals, but the Warriors are averaging just over two goals per game during their losing streak.

“Their goalie's shutting us down, the other team's getting in front of our shots (and) we're missing a lot of opportunities that we didn't before,” Lehneke said. “It does happen. That Norwin game, I think we had about 12 shots go over the goalie's shoulder right over the crossbar. A couple more inches, and we score four. It's just a matter of inches that we're missing in two of those games.”

Lehneke said a common problem during losing streaks is players' tendency to “push too hard,” trying to turn things around. He said he would caution his own squad against doing that.

“We've got to get back to what we were doing right in the beginning of the year, and that's the simple things: not pushing the envelope too much, not trying too hard, not trying to do everything yourself,” Lehneke said. “We've got to do more teamwork. When we move the puck, we're as good a team as anybody. That's what we've got to get back to.”

While the losing streak dropped Penn-Trafford into a tie for first place in Section 3-AAA with Butler and a tie for fifth place in the overall Class AAA standings, the Warriors still have the potential to host a first-round playoff game. Twelve teams make the playoffs, with eight hosting at least one playoff game.

“The teams are so tight, and there's a few teams that need to play a couple games still,” Lehneke said. “It's hard to say. I think we can catch a home game for the playoffs. But honestly, we've played very good on the road, and we've also played good at home. I'm not really concerned about that.”

The Warriors had a chance to right things in their regular-season finale, which ended past the deadline for this week's edition. Peters Township was tied for the No. 1 seed in Class AAA entering Tuesday's game.

“It's not the end of the world if we lose, obviously, but (in terms of) getting back on a winning streak I'd say it's pretty important,” Lehneke said. “Especially right before the playoffs, it'd be a huge win. Peters Township's fighting for the top seed, so I'm sure they're going to come out hard.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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