After closed-door meeting, Latrobe hockey joins hunt with Class 2A contenders

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Monday, January 30, 2023 | 12:14 PM


It’s been a far-from-perfect scenario since the Latrobe hockey team held a closed-door meeting in early November following a pair of uninspired losses that produced just two goals and dropped the Wildcats’ record to .500 after just four games. Despite his team having outscored its first two opponents by a combined 13-3, coach Josh Werner had seen enough. So had his staff, his captains and presumably everybody else.

After all, this was a team still smarting from missing the PIHL playoffs for the first time in 17 years.

“It looked like everyone was out there doing their own thing,” Werner said. “We weren’t working as a team.”

That Nov. 2 meeting appears to have been the answer.

After that, Latrobe won eight of its next 12 games to stay within range of the Class 2A leaders — Armstrong and South Fayette — heading into Thursday’s scheduled home game against Penn-Trafford at Nevin Arena in Greensburg.

A tough 2-1 home loss Jan. 19 to Thomas Jefferson ended a four-game winning streak for Latrobe and was the Wildcats’ third loss to the Jaguars, including a 5-4 shootout decision Nov. 18.

Both were among Latrobe’s four losses since holding its special meeting, which came about after the team lost to Armstrong, 5-1, and Penn-Trafford, 3-1, and raised a red flag in the Latrobe camp.

“It was going to take everybody from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen,” said Latrobe captain Peyton Myers, who leads the team and was tied for fourth in Class 2A with 33 points. “We just said we can’t have anybody not thinking about winning. We’ve all got to be on the same page. Everyone is accountable, including the coaches.”

Myers assumed control of the team meeting, though he hasn’t been one to point the spotlight on himself.

Nonetheless, the senior forward requested the attention of his teammates, and even assistant captains JD Robinson and Reid West, in order to convey his passion.

“I don’t like talking about myself in this way,” he said, “but I asked the assistant captains if I could do most of the talking. I take a lot of it personal because I’ve grown up with Latrobe hockey. My dad (Sean Myers) was the captain of the team his senior year, too.”

Myers challenged the team to recommit to its preseason goals in order to have a chance to contend for another state championship.

Latrobe has won four Pennsylvania Cups, the most recent in 2008.

“We want to get it to the point where we bring one back to Latrobe again,” Myers said.

The Wildcats, with four regular-season games remaining, were three points behind the Class 2A co-leaders with four games to play.

“We have a lot of games in hand on just about everybody else,” Werner said. “We’re focused on the rest of the regular season. We know we kind of piggybacked off how last year ended, where we didn’t make the playoffs, and I think our 14 seniors — those upperclassmen — are taking steps to see what it takes to win. We don’t want to give away opportunities.”

Latrobe’s offense was leading Class 2A in points, partly because the Wildcats had played the most games through Jan. 22. Still, there is balance in the lineup. Behind Myers’ 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) were Fletcher Harvey’s 27 points, Jacob Hannah’s 24, Robinson’s and Nik Manolakos’ 18 each and Noah Guidos’ 12.

Werner said Myers is the team’s engine.

“Peyton is having a great year,” Werner said. “We really ride or die with him. He’s taken a big step this year. His leadership and what he expects from all the players have come a long way from last year.”

First-year goalies Connor Keddie (1.98 goals-against average) and JM Krajc (2.57) have been no less than spectacular for Latrobe, which had scored a total of 81 goals and yielded 39.

While no member of the Latrobe coaching staff was invited to the team’s closed-door gathering, Werner insisted he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“We went back to practice, and nothing else was said. I can tell you, just from that meeting, I’ve seen a different team,” Werner said. “The tide turned. People had had different agendas, and the guys talked it out. Our results have really reflected how we’re playing as a team and playing together. I’m proud of it as a coach. It puts us in a good position.”

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