Norwin hockey relishes long-awaited turnaround

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Monday, December 18, 2017 | 11:00 PM


The enjoyment Bryce Hegedus gets celebrating a victory during Norwin hockey's recent run is a feeling he is not taking for granted considering what the program recently endured.

The Knights won a total of seven games over the last four seasons, so it's easy to see why Norwin's 6-5 start this season is special for Hegedus and his teammates.

Norwin began the second half of PIHL Class A play Monday against Chartiers Valley and is firmly in the postseason conversation. The Knights were tied for ninth with Kiski Area in the Class A standings with 12 points entering Monday.

“It feels really good to have a good start after as many years as we've been not doing too hot,” said Hegedus, a senior forward. “It feels much better to come into the locker room after a game and not be upset and kind of hate what happened during the game. I've been playing since I was eight, and it feels like things are starting pay off this year.”

The turnaround for the Knights starts with improved offense.

They have improved statistically in almost every category from last season. They've doubled their goals per game from two to four, increased their power-play percentage from 11 to 22 and are averaging three more shots per game. They are at or above league average in all three categories.

Newcomer Mason Pivarnik has provided a boost to the top line with Hegedus and Nick Diak. Pivarnik and Hegedus are tied for the team lead with 21 points. Hegedus has 11 goals and 10 assists, and Pivarnik has 13 goals, including three-power play tallies, and eight assists.

“Mason's speed helps us a lot,” Norwin coach Dennis Tokarski said. “That line feeds off of each other's energy. Bryce (Hegedus) is a really smart player. He works hard on the whole ice surface. He knows that Mason does certain things, and he knows where he's going to be. The two of them have taken advantage of that and have created a lot of opportunities.”

Norwin has wins over Fox Chapel, Freeport, Beaver, Greensburg Salem, Wheeling Catholic and Blackhawk. Pivarnik had hat tricks against Freeport and Greensburg Salem. Hegedus also had a hat trick against Greensburg Salem and a second one against Wheeling Catholic.

The Knights finished the first half on a two-game losing streak, falling 10-2 to South Park and 8-0 against Thomas Jefferson.

“Those two games we're a bit of a disappointment,” Tokarski said. “We fell behind big early, and we kind of packed it in a little bit. Sometimes it's hard to keep the spirits up when you're getting crushed, but we have guys who are working hard. They're learning. They're putting in the effort, and it's paying off. They're getting some dividends out of it.”

Said Hegedus: “Thomas Jefferson is really good. I think we now understand that even though we were playing hard, that game showed where we were still lacking in our positioning. I think if we play hard and do a better job with positioning well, we can compete with most teams.”

Kiski Area, Deer Lakes, Sewickley Academy and Indiana, which all are within two points of Norwin, remain on the schedule. The Knights also play Meadville, which is tied at the top of the standings, West Allegheny and Wheeling Park.

There are eight teams within five points of each other in the middle of the standings. Playing some of those teams gives Norwin an opportunity to separate itself from the pack. The Knights look to keep trending in the right direction offensively and want to shore up their penalty kill, which ranks near the bottom of the league at 74 percent.

“We need to keep working on the things we've been working on,” Hegedus said. “We have a pretty decent power play. It's one of the best in the league. If we can keep capitalizing on those opportunities and fix our penalty kill some, I think we can make a run at the postseason.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.

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