Freeport finally ends lengthy break
When Freeport's hockey team takes the ice at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Belmont Complex, the Yellowjackets will not have played in a competitive game together for 14 games.
Freeport coach Dave Hepler said that “a good seven” of his players have competed on travel teams in that time, and he believes the Yellowjackets will show no sign of rust when they battle Westmont Hilltop in the first round of the PIHL Class A playoffs Wednesday.
Freeport's last game was a 3-0 victory over Sewickley Academy on Feb. 28.
“We could've used the rest,” Hepler said.
Freeport has been wearing out opposing goalies this year. The Yellowjackets have scored 120 goals, which is a school record.
One goalie who has given Freeport trouble this year has been Westmont Hilltop's Ian O'Brien.
The Hilltoppers and Yellowjackets split their two regular-season matchups, and each time the score was 2-1.
“They have a tough goalie. He's hard to get past,” Freeport senior Patrick Spangler said.
Beau Zack and Spangler are No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the PIHL in points. They each have 35 goals, while Zack has 23 assists to Spangler's 19.
Westmont Hilltop is led by Brenden Boyle, who is No. 6 in the PIHL with 42 points.
Hepler said it was strange that both teams have explosive offensive weapons, yet both games this season have been low-scoring affairs.
Spangler thinks that the way the two teams match up played a role in those previous games.
“We just don't match up good against them,” Spangler said. “They have a full bench, and we don't have that luxury. Them having a full bench tires us out.”
Hepler expects a “tight, tight game” again on Wednesday.
“We should be ready,” he said.
Hepler believes the key for the Yellowjackets is to “chip the puck” behind Westmont Hilltop's defense and out of their zone.
“And, make their defense back up some and get the puck to the red line,” Hepler said. “And chase and beat their defense to the puck.”
After two meetings with Westmont Hilltop, Spangler seems to have respect for the Hilltoppers' “big defensemen.” He thinks the Yellowjackets need use their speed to their advantage on offense.
A big obstacle will be O'Brien.
“We have to get a lot of shots on their goalie, get him moving from side to side,” Spangler said.