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Freeport hockey team enjoys February frenzy

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Rob Reichenbaugh attempts to take down Deer Lakes' Jonathan Merlo during the hockey game at Ice Connection in Valencia on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Eric Waddell drives the puck against Deer Lakes' Curtis Szewczyk during the hockey game at Belmont Ice Complex in Kittanning on Thursday, February 20, 2014.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Cole Hepler takes the lead past Deer Lakes' Mitchell Rupprecht during the hockey game at Ice Connection in Valencia on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

February was a dominant month for the Freeport hockey team.

The Yellowjackets finished the month 5-2 while scoring a whopping 42 goals. They are rolling into the Penguins Cup Playoffs, which begin Monday, finishing the regular season 14-5-2.

A big reason for the team's success in February was the dynamic play of forwards Cole Hepler, a senior, and junior Michael Frazetta. They play on the team's top line, with Frazetta dishing out assists, and Hepler firing blistering shots on goal.

The duo combined for 29 points, including 16 of the 42 goals in February. Hepler has tallied 10 goals and six assists, and Frazetta has scored six goals and added seven assists.

Sophomore winger Nick Rusak also is a threat on the top line, having chipped in one goal and four assists in February.

“The reason Mickey plays on a line with Cole is they play well together, and they aren't afraid to get the puck to each other along with Nick Rusak,” Freeport coach Dave Hepler said. “They all can skate well, and they are the ones that can keep up with Cole and play well as a unit.”

Frazetta has registered career highs in goals (9) and assists (25) for Freeport, which won 13 of its final 15 regular-season games.

“From this year and last year, I've really tried to improve in all aspects of my game,” Frazetta said. “Last year, I was a freshman on a line with Greg Newman and Cole Hepler, and I really relied on those two and did the best I could with them. As a line this year, all three of us have created chemistry with each other, and things are working out well for us.

“We mainly try to haul it up the ice and move the puck quickly and get in the right positions to get open for each other.”

It only seems fitting that Freeport has hit its stride leading into the PIHL playoffs.

“I think we're playing with confidence, and we're playing better as a team,” Hepler said. “We're playing a team game. It doesn't matter who scores. We have a couple of girls on the team, and everyone accepts them as good players.”

One of those girls is goalie Katie Hill. She is blemish-free in the loss column, as she leads Freeport with seven wins, two of those coming in February. Included is an 8-0 victory over Serra Catholic.

Freeport has the luxury of having three talented goalies, according to Hepler: Matt Huston, Dominic DiGiacobbe and Hill. All three goalies have aided Freeport's success.

When it comes to playoff hockey, it's often said that playing shutdown defense is more essential than trying to be a high-scoring offense. Hepler thinks teams need a good mix of both, but he emphasizes solid defensive play from not only his defensemen and goalies, but also his forwards on the back check.

“Goaltending is always important, but the key is good defense,” Hepler said.

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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