Penn-Trafford hockey leaning on leaders to carry team through stretch run

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Sunday, February 13, 2022 | 11:01 AM


If the Penn-Trafford hockey team is to win a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League title, it will be the team leaders guiding the way.

Early in the season the Warriors (13-4) lost their best defensive player, Cam Kiste, to a season-ending injury. Then last week they lost their top offensive player, junior Nate Loughner, to a season-ending arm injury.

But Warriors coach Jeff Cerutti said he’s not counting his team out.

That’s because Cerutti will be leaning on his leaders — junior goaltender Jackson Kerrigan and senior captains Bennett Dupilka and Ryan Crombie — to keep the team focused on the task at hand.

Kerrigan has been a stalwart in goal while Dupilka and Crombie have been consistent performers.

“Usually goalies are a little quirky, but Jackson commands the locker room,” Cerutti said. “He organizes everything.

“He’s been outstanding in goal. He doesn’t give up rebounds and he usually deflects shots into the corner. We’ll need him to make more saves for us. He’s been unbelievable.”

Kerrigan has been the goalie since his freshman season. He’s 12-4 and has a 2.59 goals-against average. He’s saved 395 of 435 shots and recorded two shutouts.

Loughner had 12 goals and 17 assists. His production will be missed in the lineup, but Cerutti says others will need to pick up the slack.

Crombie, who leads the team with 14 goals (8 assists), and Dupilka, who has eight goals (6 assists), is on a line with junior Colin Patterson (5 goals, 9 assists).

“They lead by example,” Cerutti said. “If we need to demonstrate something, we use them. They are leaders by example. I’m confident they will step up when we need them.”

Another player who has stepped up in Loughner’s absense is sophomore Bryce Kropczynski, who has nine goals and six assists. Cerutti said Kropczynski has scored two goals in each of the past two games.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to catch Franklin Regional or Armstrong for first place (in the Class 2A East Division), but we’re in good shape with two games left,” he said.

The Warriors are at Latrobe (Feb. 27) and home to Shaler (Feb. 22).

After winning six consecutive games, including victories against Franklin Regional and Armstrong, the Warriors have gone 6-3.

“When the playoffs begin, I believe it will be against South Fayette,” Cerutti said.

South Fayette defeated Penn-Trafford, 8-1. It was the same night that Loughner was injured. The Warriors are hoping for a rematch in the PIHL Penguins Cup playoffs.

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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