Balanced scoring, solid defense get Latrobe hockey off to hot start

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Sunday, November 10, 2019 | 4:56 PM


With an experienced and balanced roster, Latrobe entered the season as one of the favorites to win a PIHL Penguins Cup Class AA championship.

The Wildcats have reinforced that belief with a 5-0 start to the year.

“We have a big group of seniors this year, and they are hungry to get back to the playoffs and win a Penguins Cup,” Latrobe coach Josh Werner said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, and it’s really shown in the games.”

A perennial contender, Latrobe lost to eventual Penguins Cup and state champ Pine-Richland, 5-2, in last year’s Penguins Cup semifinals.

“We were upset with how things ended last year. We have some extra motivation to come out flying,” Werner said. “We want to make it known that we want to be competitive in our games. We want people to see that they have to bring their ‘A’ games every time they play us.”

The Wildcats have outscored their opponents 34-5.

“I think the boys are all pretty happy with how we’ve started. I think we have to work on a few things and just keep performing like we can,” senior Jarred Stein said. “We have three solid lines, I think, this year. Everyone is contributing and putting up some points. We have some good defense and our goalies are playing solid. We have it all this year.”

Eleven players have scored a goal. Cole Ferri leads the way with seven, and Alex Walker and Alex Schall have five each. J.S. Florek and Stein have four each. Colten McCutcheon (3) and Josh Martino (2) are next. Peyton Myers, J.D. Robinson, Ean LaMolinara and Josh Coffee have single goals.

“That balance makes us have a dangerous team. Teams can try to match up against our top line, but the other lines are putting pucks in the net or getting good opportunities and playing good defense,” Werner said. “It makes it difficult for teams to match up.

“It’s nice to see that everyone on the team is getting points and chipping in. What most people probably don’t see is that everyone is playing good, team defense. I couldn’t be happier right now with how we’re playing. … But we still have a long way to go.”

On defense, regulars Lane Ruffner, Darick Hrtyanski, Nick Byrd, Dalton Lute and LaMolinara have shut down opponents. Jason Markowsky and Fletcher Harvey have filled in as well.

“They are an older group and have played in big games before,” Werner said. “It’s very calming to have them back there. They are experienced and know what’s expected of them.”

Senior Greg Irons and sophomore Vinny Amatucci have shared the load in goal.

“The rotation is going great, both goalies have played lights-out,” Werner said. “No matter what goalie we put back there, we feel both will do well. They are competing in practice and are motived. We know whoever is back there will make that big save for us.”

Only the top two teams in each Class AA division qualify for the postseason. Latrobe leads the Southwest by four points.

“We just need to keep it going,” Stein said. “We have to play the way we know how to and keep buying into the coaches’ systems. We can’t let up.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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