This may be the year for Penn Trafford. After a disappointing 2010-11 season, the Warriors are off to their best start ever, currently topping the division with a record 4-0-0 and 8 points.
Ed Sam, commissioner of the PIHL (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League), has noticed the turnaround the Warriors have made from last season.
“People gain more respect for you when you begin with a strong start,” Sam says. “It’s important to get the word out as to how they are facing their opponents.”
The players credit much of their success to their new head coach Brian Lehneke who began this position last June.
“This year the kids are working as a team,” Lehneke says. “They use each other on the ice, they communicate on the bench, and they work hard at practice.”
Practice is taken seriously at Penn Trafford’s Center Ice Arena, but they still manage to have fun while doing it.
“It’s laid back,” Dan Maier, Penn Trafford’s leading scorer, says. “But it’s still serious enough to try to get better.”
Defenseman Joe Aiello says that his team spends a good deal of time coming up with new plays.
“We like to change it up,” Aiello says. “We try to generate goals.”
Although the team has a lot of fun at practice, the actual games are where they can put their skills to use, something the Warriors have taken full advantage of.
“Everybody knows what needs to be done,” Mike Cheswick, Penn Trafford’s leading goaltender, says.
Instead of looking too far down the line, Lehneke and his team focus on one game at a time, so as not to get sidetracked.
“There are a lot of good teams in the PIHL this year,” Lehneke says. “We look forward to playing them all. One game at a time is the standard for us. Whether we win or lose, we don’t look too far ahead.”
Lehneke has guided his team so far through this successful start, but the Warriors have also looked to their captain Joe Boyer.
“We didn’t have the commitment last year like we do this year,” Boyer says. “Everyone wants to be here.”
Of those returning players, 15 are seniors.
“Having lots of older guys helps out,” Boyer adds. “We’re working well.”
Forward Conlan Sodrosky agrees.
“The attitude is different,” Sodrosky says. “We want to win more.”
This attitude is consistent among the players who have united and now act as a team.
“Everyone likes each other,” Lehneke says. “They all get along really well.”
It seems that all around, the players are most looking forward to the game against their rivals, the Norwin Knights this Friday at Penn Trafford’s home Center Ice in Delmont.
“We lost to them in preseason,” Aiello says. “We didn’t do great in preseason. We managed to turn that around.”
That they did, as Norwin now trails a few spots behind Penn Trafford.
“We got off to a good start,” Maier says. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”
While Lehneke would also like to continue this winning streak, he is happy with the progress his team has made this far.
“We’re proud of the kids,” Lehneke says. “Every one of them is doing a really nice job. We have high expectations of ourselves as a team.”
Boyer is hoping all this effort will take the team to the CONSOL Energy Center for the playoffs, an idea his teammates all share.
“Hopefully we can make it deep into the playoffs this year and keep this lossless streak going,” Cheswick says.
Playoffs are not for a few months, so in the meantime, Aiello tells us what we can expect from this season.
“We’re going to move the puck and make big hits,” Aiello says. “You can expect a lot of good games.”