Burrell hockey displays potential during strong start to season

Tuesday, December 21, 2021 | 9:41 AM

The Burrell hockey team already has exceeded its win total from last year, which is a sign of the progression since the PIHL season started in October.

The Bucs won only three games in 2020-21 but this year have a 5-2 record.

It’s a good start, but first-year coach Luke Kopchak said it’s just the beginning of the potential that his team has.

“The players are definitely getting more comfortable with each other,” Kopchak said. “It’s starting to show. When we’re playing well, we’re playing well. When we aren’t playing well, we are playing as individuals, and that’s something we still have to figure out. They’re getting better, though, but we still have a long way to go.”

Consecutive overtime games Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 gave Burrell tangible results to prove its growth.

In the first game against Neshannock, the Bucs were down 4-2 late, but goals 12 seconds apart from Mike Morasczyk and Caden Canfield tied the score. Then, Tyler Danko scored in overtime to seal a 5-4 win.

The following week against Avonworth, Joe Scolaro tied the score in the third period by jamming a puck in after several attempts in the crease. The Antelopes ended up winning 2-1 in a shootout, but the Bucs showed their mettle against one of the top teams in the standings.

“It was cool to see the guys not give up and tie the game late then win in the 3-on-3 overtime,” Kopchak said about the Neshannock game. “It was a really fun game. Then we went to Avonworth and had another crazy game. We ended up going to a nine-round shootout before they beat us. It was intense and a cool game to be a part of.”

Scolaro leads the team with 12 points, and Canfield is tops in goals with eight. They center separate lines, giving Burrell a nice one-two punch on its top two lines.

“They give us the opportunity to have a lot of depth in our lineup,” Kopchak said. “Joey is a head-down, work extremely hard for his goals type of player, and Caden has a ton of skill. He can really shoot the puck. Anytime the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone, he has the green light to shoot because of how good his shot is.”

Burrell has the players to suit up four lines, but finding the right way to use that depth is still a work in progress. Kopchak enjoys the challenge of trying to find the right combinations to maximize chemistry throughout the lineup. He wants his team to do a better job of imposing its will on opponents, especially those that don’t have the luxury of having four lines worth of skaters.

“That’s something we need to get better with, Kopchack said. “We need to take advantage of our bench depth. Something we are focusing on is getting pucks in deep and wearing teams down with our forecheck. We just had a game where we had a big lead (against Connellsville) in the third period, so the gameplan changed to fit that, and the guys kind of struggled with it. We have to do a better job at taking advantage of our roster size.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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