Westmoreland County Senior Spotlight: Franklin Regional’s Matt Knizner

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Sunday, November 27, 2022 | 11:21 AM


Coming off of back-to-back runner-up finishes, Franklin Regional’s hockey team is hoping to make a third PIHL finals appearance this season.

The only difference is, it wants to be the one to win the Penguins Cup this time around.

With 12 seniors graduating after last year, that will not be an easy task. But senior Matt Knizner still has faith in the younger team Franklin Regional has.

“It’s going to be a hard thing to do, but I think that we have the potential to do it,” Knizner said. “It’s something that we’re really fighting for this year.”

Led by Knizner, who is also the team’s captain, the Panthers are 4-3 on the season, but they’ve won four out of their last five games.

The team is certainly no stranger to clutch moments, and neither is Knizner. He scored the winning goal in last year’s semifinals against South Fayette.

That’s surely a moment he never will forget.

“It was a great feeling, having all your teammates come over and dogpile on you,” Knizner said. “It’s a great feeling knowing that I could advance our team into the next and very important game.”

Knizner is off to a great start this season, with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in six games, including a four-goal performance against Mars on Nov. 21.

Franklin Regional, however, ranks high in a stat that teams are not looking to be near the top of the leaderboard in: penalties.

The Panthers have four of the top 11 players in terms of infractions this season. It’s something Knizner said they’re looking to improve on moving forward.

“We’re trying to encourage everybody because penalties are going to kill us this year,” Knizner said. “We’re trying to be positive and enforce it in a good way, instead of trying to punish people.”

Knizner is narrowing his college list down, and he would like the opportunity to continue to play hockey after high school.

This week, Knizner took some time for a Senior Spotlight Q&A:

How did you get started with hockey?

I got started when I was around 4 years old. I was doing skating lessons when I was little, and I kind of found a love for the game. It was something that I knew I wanted to do from a very young age.

How do you feel about the team’s start to the season?

We started off a little slow. That’s all right because I think we’ll be able to bounce back. If we continue to get stronger as the season goes on, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape. If we keep playing our game, if we play strong, if we play exactly how we did against Thomas Jefferson (a 4-1 win), I think that we won’t have any problem with any team this season.

How do you feel about your personal start to the season?

I’m pretty satisfied with how I’m doing. I think that it’s also good for me to try and lead the team. I have goals for myself this season personally but especially as the captain. I’m trying to build the team because it’s a team game. I want everybody doing their best because not one person’s going to win the game. It’s also good for everybody else to have those games, have those moments and everybody’s getting those points collectively.

What’s your biggest strength?

I would probably say my speed. I think a lot of people in the past have told me that I’m a pretty fast skater. I hope that I can keep doing that. My backchecking is a pretty good strength as well. I like being able to get in the corners, get the puck and make a great play.

Is there an area where you feel like you could improve?

Definitely my awareness and where I could be in the game at some points. Sometimes there’s a play going on, and you don’t realize there’s a play going on behind you. Just on-ice awareness and things like that.

What is one thing that people may not know about you?

One thing that people don’t know about me is that not only am I an athlete, but I also play guitar. It helps me get focused sometimes. I feel like not many people expect that. They think I’m all focused on hockey. It’s kind of nice to step away from that and be able to do something relaxing.

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