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Freeport rolls into Penguins Cup Playoffs on hot streak

Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Cole Hepler defends the puck against Deer Lakes' Zachary Luniewski during the hockey game at Ice Connection in Valencia on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.

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By D.j. Vasil
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 5:49 p.m.

Freeport had a dominant February, finishing the month 5-2 while tallying 42 goals.

The Yellowjackets are swarming into the Penguins Cup playoffs, which begin Monday, ending the regular season 14-5-2.

A big reason for the team's success in February was the dynamic play of Cole Hepler, a senior forward, and junior forward Michael Frazetta. They can be seen on the team's top line together with Frazetta dishing out assists, while Hepler fires blistering shots on goal and seemingly scores at will.

The duo combined for 29 points, including 16 of the teams 42 goals, in February. Hepler had 10 goals and six assists while Frazetta 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 aren't afraid to get the puck to each other, along with Nick Rusack,” 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 (nine) and assists (25) for Freeport, which won 13 of its final 15 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 seems only right that Freeport has hit its stride leading into the 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 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 a seven wins, two of those coming in February, including an 8-0 shutout against Serra Catholic.

Freeport has the luxury of having three talented goalies. Alongside Hill are Matt Huston and Dominic DiGiacobbe, with all three chipping in to the team's success.

When it comes to playoff hockey, it often is said that playing shutdown defense is more essential than trying to be a high-scoring offense.

Hepler looks at it as needing a good mix of both, but he emphasizes solid defensive play from not only his defensemen and goalies, but from 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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