ShareThis Page

Sewickly Academy hockey looks to take next step

| Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, 1:30 p.m.
West Allegheny's Sean Weber reaches for the puck between Sewickley Academy's Don Gex (97) and Michael Hertzberg during their game Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, at RMU Island Sports Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
West Allegheny's Sean Weber reaches for the puck between Sewickley Academy's Don Gex (97) and Michael Hertzberg during their game Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, at RMU Island Sports Center.

Sewickley Academy was just happy to be back in the PIHL last year.

Now, the Panthers want to start taking some steps toward reaching the Penguins Cup Class A playoffs.

Sewickley Academy, which took off the 2011-12 season and spent the next three seasons in the Independent School Hockey League, returned to the PIHL last fall. While the Panthers finished 3-18-1, they hope they laid the groundwork for a strong push this season.

“It was a big adjustment last year coming back into the league. It was a really big transition. I thought that we showed a lot of promise last year but never really clicked and got quite where we wanted to be,” Sewickley Academy senior defenseman Joey Straka said. “We didn't expect that we would do great. Our hope would be that we would hold our own and not be an outlier. We wanted to establish ourselves again, and I think we definitely did that. What we want to do now is kind of change our image into being one of the teams that people don't want to play against.”

Chris Chiusano took over as coach this season. He understands the growing process involved with the young Panthers. He expects the squad's progress to continue.

“The experience they had last year kind of gave them an idea of the level of competition in the PIHL. I think, to some degree, it gave them a little bit of confidence even though their record wasn't something the guys were happy about,” he said. “Quite a bit of these guys play amateur hockey, too. It's just a matter of getting some more confidence and chemistry in this group. Hopefully, within the next month to month-and-a-half, we can turn things around quickly and give some teams some fits they didn't anticipate.

“In our first meeting in June with the players, we stressed that it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, dedication and teamwork to accomplish the goals they want. One goal is to make the playoffs and shoot for a .500-or-better season. It's not going to be easy, but I think it's capable of being attained.”

The Panthers opened the season without a handful of players, including Straka, who can't join the team until their fall sports seasons are complete.

“We're missing those guys. They'll be a nice addition once we get them back in the lineup,” Chiusano said.

Sewickley Academy returns two PIHL All-Stars in junior forward Michael Hertzberg and junior goaltender Cole Luther. Hertzberg led the team with 12 goals and 19 points last year. The Panthers struggled to generate offense a year ago as they scored a PIHL-low 49 goals.

“Our team last year was really young. We had a lot of freshmen. While they are all skilled, they got knocked about a bit because of their size. It seems like all those young guys who I was fearing for have gotten a little bigger and are going to be very positive contributors,” Straka said.

“For a lot of the older guys, the biggest difference for us is the whole chemistry aspect and getting the feel for how hockey is played in this league. Everybody is still learning. We have to be able to adapt and keep on improving.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me