Balanced offense leads Hempfield hockey team

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Sunday, November 11, 2018 | 7:57 PM


Scoring goals is not a problem for Hempfield’s hockey team.

The Spartans hope it stays that way.

With a deep lineup, Hempfield believes it can continue piling up goals. The team tallied 32 through its first six games, tops in PIHL Class AA.

“We’re working well together, and we’re a pretty deep team this year. Everyone is working hard, and everyone is contributing,” Hempfield senior captain Jared Gerger said. “We’re a pretty offensively talented team this year. All three lines are contributing to the points, and the points are pretty spread out this year.”

The Spartans (4-2) have goals from 11 players, and they deploy three forward lines regularly. Matt Bartus, Aiden Dunlap and Gerger skate on the top line, and Matt Traczynski, Christian Konieczka and Daniel Pronin are on the second line. Harley O’Brochta, Jacob Holtzman and Nick Lippa are on the third line. Traczynski leads the team with nine goals and 12 points. Gerger (seven goals, nine points) and Konieczka (six, nine) are next.

“Having some balance definitely takes the pressure off you and keeps you fresh,” Gerger said. “Going into tight games late, you feel comfortable with other lines out there and trust they won’t make mistakes.”

Said Hempfield coach Denny Zeravica: “We have a real deep team and a lot of talent. In my years of coaching at Hempfield, this is the deepest team we’ve had. It’s a hard lineup to crack. Some of the younger guys are working hard to get time. We roll three lines, and they are all producing and putting up points. We’re getting some contributions from our fourth line, too, when those guys have got in the lineup. It’s been fun so far. There’s a long way to go.

“The rest of the coaches and I are happy with the group we have. It’s still a learning process and, hopefully, it all comes together when it needs to. We’re really happy with the progress we’ve made so far.”

The Spartans want to attack and dictate play.

“We’re definitely an aggressive team,” Gerger said. “We definitely get on the forecheck and try to get below the goal line and get pucks to the middle. That’s how we get most of our goals.”

Defensemen are adding to the offense as well. Trent Gray has two goals and six points. Caden Spehar has a goal and five points. Isaiah Forsyth has four assists. Alex Savisky and Nathan Panichella also see time on defense.

Sean Lanager and Joe Behler have split time in goal. Lanager was injured in a 4-3 loss to Upper St. Clair and is expected to be out a month.

“Sean played well in the beginning of the season but got hurt,” Gerger said. “Joe stepped in and played really well. He has been stepping up big in some games. Sean could be back by the beginning of next year.”

Hempfield opened the season with wins over Plum (7-6), Moon (5-3) and Penn-Trafford (7-4). However, the Spartans have dropped two of their last three with setbacks to Upper St. Clair (4-3) and Franklin Regional (5-4) sandwiched around a 6-3 win over Baldwin.

“A lot of our games are close until the end of the game. One bounce right or left can determine who wins,” Gerger said. “They are all tough battles until the end.”

Gerger and his teammates know that’s the reality of Class AA. They believe there is not one team that has separated itself, and the chase for wins and points will be intense the rest of the way.

“All the teams are pretty even. Any team can win on any night,” Gerger said. “It’s just a matter of who has the better game that day and who can play harder.”

Gerger hopes his squad continues its improvement.

“Even though we graduated a pretty good amount of seniors from last year, the younger kids are stepping up,” he said. “Our communication and the way we work together have definitely progressed during the season. We’re definitely starting to get things clicking now. Hopefully, that’ll keep getting better as the season goes on. You want to win and finish the first half of the schedule on a high note so you don’t have as much pressure to come out later in the season to get wins.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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