Freeport enters PIHL season with small roster but high expectations

Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | 9:30 AM

To put in perspective how young the Freeport hockey team is, consider it will dress more freshmen than seniors every time it takes the ice this season.

The Yellowjackets also will be low on numbers with only 11 skaters and two goalies, but coach Kelly Mason isn’t using their youth or small roster as an excuse.

A year after making the PIHL Class A semifinals, the Yellowjackets expect to be competitive again.

“We’re definitely a smaller group,” Mason said. “We only have seven forwards and four defensemen. We’re going to go at it with that, but it’s a good group. Their hockey IQ is pretty good. They’re coachable. They work hard. I’m eager to see what’s going to happen.”

Freeport finished 15-3 in the regular season before falling to eventual-champion Indiana in the semifinals.

The Yellowjackets started the season Thursday with a 8-2 loss against Plum.

Marcus Trask, Paul Zecca and Sebastian Cordier are the three seniors. Junior Joey Liput is another player returning with varsity experience.

Sophomore goalie Tyler Lang, who was a PIHL all-star as a freshman, returns in net. He went 15-3 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.

Trask, the team captain, is the leading returning scorer. He had seven goals and 19 assists last season.

“I think Marcus, Paul and Joey are all going to have a fantastic year,” Mason said. “Marcus had a solid year last year, and from what I’ve seen from him so far I think he’s going to be even better this season. We have talent, but we don’t have numbers, so we’ll have to find a way to overcome that.”

To counteract having a small roster Mason said they’ll have to adjust their style of play to try and keep players as fresh as he can.

They’ll have five freshmen: Jack Crawford, Landen Kozma, Jacob Miller, Zach Bowser and Will Wolf on the varsity team. They’ve showed promise.

“The freshmen coming in are a talented group,” Mason said. “We had a couple scrimmages, and those freshmen have found their way on the score sheet. They are not shying away from the challenge.

“All the freshmen coming up know what kind of season we had last year. That’s where we want to be year in and year out. There are ebbs and flows with graduation, but the goal remains the same. We want to be a competitive team that makes the playoffs. These guys understand that’s the goal this year regardless of our circumstances.”

Despite only having four blue liners, three of them are experienced. Cordier and juniors Jake Suwan and Nicholas Dobransky started last year. Mason expects the defense to be a strength.

“We graduated two key cogs on the blue line (Jack Mason and Cole Mitchell), but the kids that are coming back are experienced and they are blossoming,” he said. “I could see it as the season went on. I’m definitely excited about them. I believe our defense will be one of the stronger points of our team this year, and it really has to be.”

It is understood that being short-handed roster-wise will be a challenge, but if the players can stay healthy they believe they’ll be a tough opponent to play against every night.

“I think on any given night we can have success,” Mason said. “It’s going to come down to the players buying into our new systems that we’re going to run this year and staying in shape as the season goes on, because for the most part they’re going to be playing every other shift all season long.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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