Franklin Regional hockey ready to rebound after missing postseason

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Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Franklin Regional missed the 2019-20 PIHL Penguins Cup playoffs by one point.

That didn’t sit well with the players and coach John Winebrenner after his squad finished 10-8 behind Latrobe and Hempfield.

But with nine starters returning and a talented group of players moving up from the junior varsity, Winebrenner said he expects his Panthers to contend for the Class AA Southeast Division title and a playoff spot.

The Panthers’ season was scheduled to begin Nov. 2 against Montour at Robert Morris’ Island Sports Center, and Winebrenner has been pleased with the progress of the team the past month in various scrimmages.

“We’re already developing chemistry among the players, and they’ve found a system they’re comfortable with and they’re having fun,” Winebrenner said. “They’re working hard, and I’m looking forward to the season. We have a fast team, not a big one.”

Winebrenner will rely on a strong returning forward group that includes seniors Jake Rettger and Mark Clement and juniors Chase Williams, Zach Abdallah and Zach Zeto. Abdallah recently joined the squad after playing for the WPIAL Class AAA champion golf team and competing at the state finals Oct. 26.

Senior goalie Jacob Fulton also returns to the lineup.

The top scorers back are Williams, who had eight goals and 12 assists, Luke Beatty, who had four goals and 14 assists, and Abdallah, with nine goals and seven assists.

“We lost a lot of our defense,” Winebrenner said. “But we have guys ready to step in.”

Back on defense are Beatty and junior Ben Yurko.

Franklin Regional graduated leading scorers Trent Lunden (20 goals, 15 assists) and Kevin Cakanac (14 goals, 14 assists).

“We play in a real good division,” Winebrenner said. “I truly expect us and Penn-Trafford to challenge the other teams for the division title.”

The Southeast Conference was 16-0 against teams from other conferences.

Franklin Regional also will be road warriors early in the season as five of its first seven games are away from it home ice rink, Center Ice Arena in Delmont.

“We’ll get tested early, that’s for sure,” Winebrenner said. “We have to remember and stay focused because the games early in the season are as just as important as ones later.”

Latrobe finished 16-1 and Hempfield was 11-7 with 22 points, one-point better than Franklin Regional.

“We had a chance to get into the playoffs, but we dropped a tough one in our final game of the season,” Winebrenner said.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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