Hempfield hockey team has high expectations under new head coach

Monday, October 24, 2022 | 12:02 PM

During the buildup to Hempfield’s season-opening high school hockey game — a 5-1 loss to Latrobe last Thursday at Nevin Arena in Greensburg — Spartans players were weighing the idea of a new season with a new coach.

One, they say, with a changing approach.

Cory Myers, a former American Collegiate Hockey Association Coach of the Year with the Penn State Division II club team, has taken over the Spartans bench from former coach Eric Grant, who resigned in June because of job demands.

“We’ve gotten new systems this year, and we’ve had to adapt to different situations,” said Hempfield senior co-captain Nick Bruno.

“Coach Myers wants us doing different stuff in certain situations, like with faceoffs. It’s been complicated at times, but we’ve had a ton of practices. We’re rolling now.”

Hempfield’s start under Myers wasn’t what the team was expecting, but the Spartans have had time to regroup and prepare for their next opportunity in another PIHL Class 2A clash next Monday against Penn-Trafford at Palmer Imaging Arena in Delmont.

“We all know his background,” Bruno said of Myers, “and he’s done a good job of getting us ready for the season. There’s been no fooling around.”

Hempfield in 2021-22 posted a 9-9-1 record after a first-round, overtime loss to Thomas Jefferson in the PIHL playoffs in Grant’s final season as coach.

“I’m expecting more of us this year,” Bruno said. “I’m expecting a lot.”

That’s a good sign to Myers, a Cambria County native and four-year high school player at Central Cambria. Myers, 30, went on to play a stretch of seasons at the junior hockey level, spending one year with the Pittsburgh Junior Penguins and several more with teams in Utah and Michigan.

He returned to the area and enrolled at IUP, where he played for the school’s Division I club team.

Myers later coached the Penn State Division II club team for two seasons from 2017-19, winning an ACHA regular-season championship in his first year. For the majority of his time there, Myers’ teams were ranked No. 1 nationally.

“There was a commitment level at Penn State that I hadn’t seen before,” he said.

“I’ve tried to emphasize that here at Hempfield. It’s an awesome opportunity. We had a lot of guys try out. I told the guys on this team that if you’ve made the varsity team, you shouldn’t take it for granted.”

Senior Caden Horton and junior Alex Smillie join Bruno as team captains. Myers said the trio represents some qualities he is seeking in an effort to help the Spartans return to the playoffs.

“I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity and to be working with the group we have,” Myers said.

“Nick Bruno is fast. He’s an awesome, hard worker. He’s a small guy, but he’s really fast. He’s played a lot of hockey here and on a Triple-A travel team, but he makes sure he’s at practice. I’ll say it 100 times: Commitment.”

Myers labeled Horton, like Bruno, a forward, with the “Commitment” moniker, as well.

“These guys are the first on the ice and the last off the ice,” he said.

“Caden is a grinder, a work-hard guy. It’s always fun to see him practice. He’s a guy every guy wants on their team.”

Smillie, a defensemen, is “just a workhorse,” Myers said.

“He always wants to get better, not just yearly, but every week.”

With Myers on the Hempfield bench in his first game last week, Bruno took the puck and split several Latrobe defenders with a burst of speed, carrying it into the Wildcats zone before firing a shot wide of the net.

Hempfield was outshot by Latrobe, 27-18, scoring its lone goal by Ian Shaw on a power play, with assists from Bruno and Maxwell Short, at the midpoint of the second period.

“We’re a little bit different skill level than a lot of teams,” Myers said.

“I think we’re right below some top teams. We don’t want anyone outworking us. It’s something we said at Penn State, too. No one will outwork us. Nobody is going to go 110% every single shift, except us. We just want to outwork every single team. They might have more skill, but we’re going to make sure we outwork them every time.

“That’s just something we’re pushing.”


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