Penn-Trafford hockey team heating up ahead of Penguins Cup playoffs

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Sunday, February 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM


It’s been a roller-coaster type season for the 2022-23 Penn-Trafford hockey team.

There were highs at the being of the season when the team started 7-2 and finished second in a holiday tournament. That was followed by a poor month of January where the team posted a 1-5 record.

But after a few team meetings and film sessions, the month of February has started off well as the Warriors have gone 3-0 and are climbing the Class 2A standings.

“At the beginning of the season I thought we had enough talent on paper to challenge for a title,” Penn-Trafford coach Chris Cerutti said. “We started well, but after the Christmas tournament we lost focus and started struggling. We were more concerned about scoring than doing the right things to win games.”

So Cerutti and his staff started showing the players what teams like Armstrong, Thomas Jefferson, South Fayette and Franklin Regional were doing to win games and showed his team how they were playing.

The team got the message, and along with a minor lineup switch, the Warriors have found that winning formula again.

“I started to see a change against Bishop McCort,” Cerutti said. “Even though we lost, I felt we outplayed them and should have won the game.

“We’ve steadily improved since that game and I felt we played our best game of the season against South Fayette. The team is buying in on what we need to do to win. I believe they thought they could turn it on or off at any time.”

After falling to Bishop McCort, Penn-Trafford has beaten Latrobe (4-3), Mars (6-0) and second-place South Fayette (5-1).

Penn-Trafford raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first period against South Fayette.

Xavier Solomon scored two goals and had two assists, and Nate Loughner had two goals and an assist against South Fayette.

Cerutti said the loss off defenseman Damian Dynys to injury hurt the lineup, and he noted the backline needed more speed. So he moved senior Josh Goldberg and senior captain Collin Patterson from forward to defense.

“They added speed and better puck moving and now we’re creating more offensive chances,” Cerutti said. “Now the team is focused on playing together.

“When the season began, I didn’t expect us to go 20-0. But I did expect us to be in contention. We’re playing our best hockey now and we’re making a push.”

The top line of Solomon, Loughner, who recently became a captain, and Jack Blank, has played well.

Solomon has 24 goals and 16 assists, Loughner had 13 goals and 19 assists and Blank has five goals and 10 assists. Bryce Kropczynski has nine goals and seven assists.

Another player Cerutti said is stepping up is goaltender Jackson Kerrigan, who has posted two shutouts.

“Jackson went through a tough patch, but he’s rebounded well and his playing his best hockey,” Cerutti said. “We’ll need him to be strong in the playoffs.”

Penn-Trafford (11-7) was scheduled to play at Meadville (Feb. 20) and will host first-place Armstrong on Monday (Feb. 27) to wrap up the regular season before the Penguins Cup playoffs begin.

“We have a chance to finish between third and seventh place,” Cerutti said. “We just have to continue to play together. I feel we can make a run in the playoffs.”

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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