Return of Alex Thomas gives boost to Norwin hockey team

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Sunday, November 13, 2022 | 7:17 PM


Norwin hockey coach Mike Robinson sometimes finds himself watching Alex Thomas instead of coaching him.

But, at last, Robinson has a front-row seat along the boards to watch the dynamic forward perform for the defending PIHL Class A champions.

“He has this way of making guys look silly,” Robinson said. “He has insane vision and some of the best hands I’ve seen. He knows where the soft spots on the ice are. He is fun to watch.”

Norwin has benefited from the return of Thomas, who missed the first two games of the PIHL season with a broken collarbone.

Norwin did pretty well without the junior forward, winning 11-2 over Westmont Hilltop and 11-0 over Plum before taking down Shaler, 7-1, in Thomas’ return.

But having him back completes the Knights.

“We were able to work on our second and third lines with him out,” Robinson said. “And we had some underclassmen come in as they get used to the speed of the game.”

Already outstanding on the power play — Norwin is 6 of 9 through five games — the Knights are that much better with Thomas, who has six goals and two assists in three games. He is 2 for 2 with the man-advantage.

“One of our best strengths in the power play,” Thomas said. “No doubt.”

Thomas has complemented top scorer Joey Vecchio (11 goals, 4 assists, 15 points) and Dom Cerilli (8/4/12). The trio is among the highest scoring in the league.

“He’s getting his feet underneath him,” Robinson said of Thomas. “We have him on the second line right now, but that could change.”

Thomas said the injury happened Sept. 12 during a game with his travel team, the Pittsburgh Vengeance.

He was driven into the boards with his right shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. A dual-fracture put him on the shelf for four weeks.

“It was kind of a dirty play,” he said. “The mental part of it was the worst. Watching from the sidelines (stunk).”

No. 85 returned for the Shaler game and netted two goals and delivered two assists. The first goal back was a relief.

“It felt good,” he said. “It was a bad goal, but it felt good.”

A hat trick followed two games later in a 4-2 victory against Plum. In between, Norwin dropped a 7-4 decision to Greensburg Salem, which appears to be a challenger — along with Fox Chapel — to the Knigthts in the Blue Division.

The first line has been Cerilli, Vecchio and Logan Robb, who stopped playing hockey for a few years. Mario Cavallaro and Cade Zeravica have joined Thomas on the the second line.

“The thing is we have three solid lines we can put out there,” Thomas said.

Thomas has come back from injury before. Last season, he injured his wrist and missed three games. He ended up leading Norwin in goals during the regular season with 21.

Hockey season is one of the longest in the prep sports year. Norwin does not expect an easy route to a repeat.

“It’s going to be a long, hard journey,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be a lot harder than last year. We just have to go out and perform.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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