Shaler hockey shifts focus to development after missing playoffs

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Sunday, March 7, 2021 | 9:01 AM


Cory Sakolsky knew a 19-day break was going to make things difficult for the Shaler hockey team.

The Titans’ chances of making the PIHL Class AA playoffs were slim even if they had a chance to play out the regular season as previously planned. Shaler dropped a 6-1 decision to West Allegheny on Feb. 23 and was nine points behind first-place Armstrong with five games remaining.

Sakolsky took the opportunity to pivot to a developmental stance.

“We set up a new format for practicing, skill development and to develop consistency,” Sakolsky said. “We told the seniors: Stay involved and engage yourselves. It’s hard knowing the end of the road is in sight instead of having the playoffs to look forward to. I’ve never missed the playoffs before as a player or coach.”

The Titans (3-9) have found success against their Northeast Division foes, piling up a 3-1 mark. Shaler also sported four players — Tre Junker (16 points), Cam Szazynski (13), Ryan Riffner (12) and Logan Thom (12) — who reached double figures in points.

Junker leads the team with 11 goals, while Thom contributed nine.

Sakolsky believes the numbers show positive growth. The most important of those were on defense.

“Our record tells a different story than our stats show,” Sakolsky said. “We were second in the league in shots against, so we suppressed a lot of shots.”

Shaler was shut down for 19 days before the loss to West Allegheny due to the school’s covid-related shutdown. The Titans were only able to have virtual team activities.

That led to a tough night against the Indians.

Shaler had some players who hadn’t been on the ice since the break.

Sakolsky hopes the Titans can use their last stretch of games to continue laying the foundation for the future.

“It was a weird year,” Sakolsky said. “We were constantly figuring out how we would navigate the covid rules. I am comfortable with the way we ended the year.”

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