Penn-Trafford continuing to improve on ice
Progress has been made, but the first win of the new season continues to elude Penn-Trafford's hockey team.
The Warriors remain winless through four games after two losses last week to Central Catholic, 5-1 at Center Ice Arena on Nov. 11 and 11-2 at BladeRunners Harmarville on Friday.
Although Penn-Trafford (0-4-0) was unable to put its first points in the standings last week, head coach Brian Lehneke said he was pleased with the way his team battled, especially in the early-week loss, during which P-T led Central Catholic (3-2-0) early in the second period and trailed just 2-1 into the final 12 minutes of the game.
“We've progressed game by game, and we're starting to get used to the speed and level of play,” Lehneke said. “(The Nov. 11 game) was definitely our best game, and it was just a couple of breakdowns late in the game that let them get the score up to 5-1.”
Jake Graffius scored an unassisted goal to give the Warriors the lead in that game, but the Vikings tied the score just three minutes later on a goal by Chris McCambridge, who had a three-point night. Jesse Yeckel made the score 2-1 with 3:24 remaining in the second period, but P-T went to the locker room within striking distance.
“We had a lot of good chances in that game, and we were still in it at the ice cut (after the second period),” Lehneke said. “When we do possess the puck in the other team's zone, we've started to do some really good things. We've just had a few plays where we don't pick people up in our end.”
Eric Dunkel, Yeckel and McCambridge all put shots in the third period behind Warriors goalie Eric Phelps, who finished the game with 40 saves on 45 shots.
The rematch with the Vikings didn't go as well for P-T, which played the game with a shortened bench because of five players being unavailable for varied reasons.
Central Catholic's Anthony Parrucci scored in the first minute of the game, but the Warriors pulled even on the first of two goals by Jordan Eisenstat, which was assisted by Michael Granata.
The Vikings stayed on the attack, however, as they scored four goals in each of the first two periods. Eisenstat's unassisted goal in the waning moments of the second period was the Warriors' only other tally.
Penn-Trafford's struggles early this season stem largely from its players' inexperience at the varsity level, but the schedule hasn't made things easier on the Warriors. All of the team's opponents to date entered the week at .500 or better, and all of them have a high number of players returning from last year.
“The teams we've played so far have been pretty good, and they have a lot of kids coming back,” Lehneke said. “It's not an excuse, but they remember the team we had last year, and we're going to have our growing pains after losing so many players.”
The Warriors have 13 days between games, as they next take the ice at home against Shaler on Nov. 29 at 7:45 p.m. With the long gap created by the Thanksgiving holiday, P-T now has a chance to regroup before making a push for its first win of the season.
“The Shaler game, we expect to have our full team available for the first time,” Lehneke said.
“We have the holiday weekend off, but we're going to be on the ice some more before that game. We're going to work hard and get some good competition in practice and hopefully find some lines that can work and stick together for us.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.