West Allegheny retools for run at Class AA repeat-->
Building on last year's success, reigning Class AA Penguins Cup champion West Allegheny is aiming for a repeat.
However, this year's team won't be starting where last year's left off.
Eleven seniors, including captain Jared DiSanti, Jonathan Levitt, Patrick Coburn and goaltender Jason Kumpfmiller, have graduated.
“Those guys, they were a great part of the team and had a lot of skill and they had been varsity players for a really long time,” said West Allegheny coach Timon Veach.
Last season's sophomore standout, Matt Grebosky, also has left the team.
Now, West Allegheny has many new faces. While the team, as a whole, is young and relatively inexperienced, the talent level is promising.
“There are some really highly skilled players on our team,” said assistant coach Mike Kennedy. “Every player on our team is confident that they have the skills.”
Senior forward Mason Ervin is the only fourth-year varsity player on the team. Eight players are returning for their second varsity season, and the remaining 12 are playing their first season at the varsity level.
Replacing Kumpfmiller, one of the best goaltenders in the league last season, are Grant Gerstner, a junior in his second varsity season, and sophomore Chris Carnot, who is playing on the varsity team for the first time.
“They're really coming into their own as far as learning the position,” Kennedy said.
DiSanti had been the emotional leader in the locker room, something that the coaching staff has yet to see on this year's team.
“I think we just haven't uncovered who our leaders are going to be yet,” Kennedy said.
The players are eager to get the season started and make their mark on the program.
“What I'm seeing is the younger kids, freshmen and sophomores, really stepping into those roles with their actions on the ice,” Kennedy said.
They will need to focus on improving with each game and not let a loss impede the team's progress.
“Truly, the expectations this year are the same with us as last year. We want the same goal as last year, but the path is going to be completely different,” Kennedy said. “We're not looking for a different outcome, (but) there's going to be some growing pains.”
The coaching staff still is looking for consistency on the ice but is happy with the progress that the players have made over the summer.
“We have a young team and they need to get better, but they're putting the work in,” Veach said.
Once the season starts, the Indians surely will be targeted by opponents looking to beat the reigning champions.
“Every single game, teams are going to be amped up to compete with us,” Kennedy said.
“(Our players are) going to certainly have to adjust to that intensity level.”
Amanda Iannuzzi is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.