New coach brings structured approach to Shaler hockey team

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Creating structure for the Shaler hockey program was important for first-year coach Cory Sakolsky.

It’s something Sakolsky had in mind while assembling his coaching staff. Sakolsky, who previously coached at Butler, brought in two former head coaches to help him out with the Titans.

Matt Ranallo, who coached at Shaler and Hampton, and Craig Clontz, who coached at Hampton, will be with Sakolsky.

Senior forward Dylan Sarnowski said everyone has been willing to put the time in to learn the new system.

“I think we’ve been doing it,” Sarnowski said. “Everyone is buying into it. We all have playbooks this year. Everyone is giving up time to learn the system. They know this is their last two or three years — or, for us seniors, our last year. We don’t want to let it go by the wayside.”

All three members of the coaching staff will brainstorm ideas trying to help the Titans, who open the season Nov. 2 against perennial PIHL Class AA power Latrobe at Kirk S. Nevin Arena, return to the postseason. Shaler’s offense struggled with consistency last year and finished 4-14 in a pandemic-shortened season.

“I think you have to have people who will give people some guidance, what is successful and what works at all levels,” Sakolsky said. “It’s an imperfect game. If you try to teach people to be perfect, they are going to play robotic, and it’s harder to produce.”

Shaler scored 56 goals last season and was led by returning senior forward William Junker, who pocketed nine and led the team with 17 points.

Sakolsky set a conservative goal for offensive improvement. He would like to see the Titans average three goals per game. In Shaler’s two scrimmages, the Titans have outshot their opponents 80-28.

“We want them to be doing the proper forechecking and not skating in lines down the ice,” Sakolsky said. “We want them to be crossing and for them to create different situations to occur. We hope that continues throughout the year.”

Playing those two scrimmages helped the Titans build confidence.

“In the first two games we played, we had goals from defenseman and offensive players,” Sarnowski said.

From watching game tape, Sakolsky feels he has a deep roster capable of scoring. In addition to Junker, Cam Szazynski (14 points) and Justin Newton (12) will also return.

Ryan Bragg, who made 17 appearances in goal last season with a 1-6 record and an .853 save percentage, will return in net.

Sakolsky doesn’t think he will have one player carry the team for scoring.

He expects things to be distributed pretty equally among the groups of forwards and defensemen.

“I think for the last couple years, from the outside looking in, this team needed structure,” Sakolsky said. “We’ve made some nice steps during the first couple months. We only have five seniors and a nice junior class. We’re a blue-collar team. We’re going to have to work hard and work together as a whole unit.”

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