Sewickley Academy hockey hopes “ups” outnumber “downs”
By: Shawn Annarelli
Saturday, December 29, 2018 | 9:18 AM
Sewickley Academy’s hockey season has been two-faced.
There is the version of the Panthers that is 6-1 against some division foes, but another version that has been outscored 32-5 in losses to Meadville, Montour and West Allegheny.
“I think we should be competing more against some of those better teams,” Sewickley Academy coach Chris Chiusano said.
“I would say it’s been an up-and-down season, but I think things are looking pretty bright for us in the second half based upon some of the practices and games we’ve had recently.”
Sewickley Academy (6-5) has to play with more confidence against the best teams in Class A, according to senior defenseman Henry Meakem.
“We’re really excited to play everyone twice, and we’re good at going through games on film and seeing our mistakes and excited to put best effort again to go have a better outcome,” Meakem said. “We are confident in the second half that we can be more successful. We have a lot of seniors who are used to the full grind of the season.”
Sewickley Academy has won four of six games to gain momentum heading into the latter half of the season.
The Panthers have been led by Matthew Hajdukiewicz with 24 goals, seven assists and 31 points, which is sixth in Class A.
“Matthew’s play speaks for itself,” Chiusano said. “He leads the team in points and is close to the top in Single A with points, goals and assists. He brings his ‘A’ game to every game. He’s a hard worker and consistent, so we always count on him for a few points a game.”
Hajdukiewicz pointed to teammates such as Jack Duggan, Tommy Sykes Gordon and Jackson Paul for setting him up to have success. He also credited goalies Thomas Sykes and Brady Mosberger, who split time in net, with keeping the team in close games.
There are ways the team can help its goalies more, according to Hajdukiewicz and Chiusano.
Sewickley Academy is tied for the second-most penalties in Class A, which Chiusano called a disappointment having preached the importance of self-discipline since the beginning of the season.
“I think what we struggle with most is not letting our emotions get the best of us,” Hajdukiewicz said. “I think if we settle down and focus on not retaliating it will help us a lot.”
The team also has to focus on transitioning from the offensive zone to pressure opponents in the neutral and defensive zones.
“We do like to cycle down low a lot on offense, and I think sometimes it prohibits us from getting back on the back check,” Hajdukiewicz said.
“That puts strain on our defense, especially with odd-man rushes. If forwards can get back faster, I think we can cut down on goals that we’ve allowed.”
The Panthers have made progress since a 2-3 start to the season and have a chance to make the playoffs.
“If we work hard in practice and focus on our system, I think the results will come,” Meakem said.
“We are an experienced team, and we have gone through difficult stretches before, but it seems like we always peak at the right time.”
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.
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