Fox Chapel hockey team builds on difficult lessons
Rome wasn't built in a day, but coach Cory Rome's Fox Chapel hockey team has started a remarkable rebuilding project after a disappointing campaign last winter.
After ending up 3-18 last season, the Foxes have cruised to a 7-0 record and are one of only two undefeated teams left in Class AAA this year.
Fox Chapel was ravaged by injuries in Rome's first season, but the Foxes now sport a relatively clean bill of health and get healthier every time they look at the standings.
"We were very confident coming into this season," Rome said. "(Last season) we had a team meeting the day after the last game. To use a video game analogy, we said we were going to hit the reset button and focus on this year.
"Did I expect to be 7-0• I would say not," Rome said. "Did I expect to be one of the top teams• With the players we had coming back, I think so."
Fox Chapel had about eight players miss time because of injury last year, according to Rome. On the bright side, younger players gained valuable experience, and the Foxes lost only one player to graduation.
As a result, Fox Chapel has one of the most experienced teams in the PIHL this season.
"We had other players step up and get a ton of ice time (last season)," Rome said. "It's really paid off this year."
Fox Chapel has outscored its opponents, 41-14. Last year, the Foxes were on the opposite end of a 121-51 margin.
Last season, the most devastating personnel losses were top defensemen Colin Cheng, who missed the entire year after tearing his ACL, and Will Lorenz, who missed about two-thirds of the year with a wrist injury.
With Cheng and Lorenz back on the blue line, Fox Chapel's defensive unit has improved greatly.
"Our defense was our weak point last year," Lorenz said. "We gave up way too many goals and couldn't score enough. Our defense is back, and we can create more offense from that."
Offensively, Fox Chapel has been led by senior center Daniel Humes (10 goals, 12 assists), senior winger Jake Friedland (7, 10), and junior center Christian Wirginis (10, 2). Friedland was the Foxes' lone PIHL all-star last season.
Cheng (4, 8) and Lorenz (0, 7) also have contributed to the attack.
Junior Tyler Fannie has performed well in his first season as the Foxes' top goaltender. Fannie is 7-0 with 1.97 goals-against average, 0.91 save percentage and two shutouts. Last season, Fannie had a 1-6 record as a backup.
Fox Chapel could receive another boost soon as well. Sophomore center Bryan Hovanec, who led Fox Chapel with 11 goals last season, is in the process of completing league paperwork so he can rejoin the team, according to Rome. Hovanec originally wasn't going to play for the Foxes for an undisclosed reason.
Fox Chapel will return to action against Shaler (3-2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Monday at BladeRunners in Harmar.
Following the strong start, the plan is to stay focused and avoid becoming over-confident, according to Rome.
"We're working on keeping the kids grounded," Rome said. "We don't want the kids to relax. We are where we are because of the hard work they put in during the offseason and preseason and this regular season."
Here's a look at how the Fox Chapel hockey team finished last season and has started this season.
2009-10 (3-18) : 2.4 average goals for, 5.8 average goals against
2010-11 (7-0) : 5.9, 2.0