Penn-Trafford hopes semifinal run propels team to bigger things
For the second time in three seasons, the Penn-Trafford hockey team advanced to the semifinals of the PIHL's Penguins Cup playoffs.
While the Warriors' most recent run ended there, the team is hoping to keep the momentum from its playoff success going into future seasons.
Penn-Trafford's 2013-14 season ended with a 6-1 loss to No. 2 seed Peters Township last week in the semifinal round at Robert Morris' Island Sports Center.
“Hopefully, it's something we can build off of,” Penn-Trafford coach Brian Lehneke said. “We have a good core coming back. I think we lose 11 seniors this year, so we still have eight or nine guys coming back from this semifinal year. I'm sure they got a little bit of a taste and want to get back there.”
The Warriors fell behind early against Peters Township, as Jonathan Dagnal scored two goals in 33 seconds to put the Indians up 2-0 less than two minutes into the game. Penn-Trafford battled back, getting 13 shots on goal in the first period, but Peters Township Brian Baker kept the Warriors off the board.
Peters Township scored two more goals in the second period before sophomore Cam Williams scored for Penn-Trafford to cut the score to 4-1 heading into the third. However, two early goals by Peters Township effectively ended the Warriors' chances of winning.
“I thought we played a good game,” Lehneke said. “We just couldn't get the puck behind Baker. I thought for a lot of the game we did have it in their end. We just unfortunately couldn't put the puck past him. Peters Township's definitely a very good team.”
The Warriors played the semifinal game without captain Jake Miller and alternate captain Andy Power, who Lehneke said were unavailable.
Penn-Trafford rebounded from a 3-17-1 finish last season to make it to the PIHL playoffs. The Warriors Upper St. Clair, 4-0, in the first round of the playoffs and defending champion North Allegheny, 6-5, in the quarterfinals.
“(They showed) a lot of heart and hard work,” Lehneke said. “Last year, most of the guys were on the team, with the exception of two or three players. They worked hard from last year all the way to the end of this year. That's something where they can (hold) their heads high.”
The Warriors finished the season as the No. 2 offense in PIHL Class AAA and also yielded the seventh-fewest goals.
Several key players should return for next season, including forwards Marc Anthony, Jordan Eisenstat and Cameron Williams; defensemen Dylan Baker, Steve Cheswick, Jacob Graffius, Shane Riley and Kenny White; and goalie Eric Phelps.
Still, Lehneke said the team would miss the contributions of its seniors.
“They all brought good leadership, good hard work ethic,” he said. “All through last year they never quit, even though we didn't win many games. It helped propel them into this year, where we came close to winning our section and ended up being semifinalists.”