‘Young and hungry’ North Allegheny takes ice with new-look roster
Saturday, October 21, 2023 | 11:01 AM
Only a sophomore, Luke Walkauskas skates on one of North Allegheny’s top lines, where he’s joined by two more 10th graders in Brendan White and Eddie Scherer.
Yes, they’re young, but they’ll fit right in with this year’s youthful lineup. The NA hockey team has only seven seniors, but they’ll have at least six sophomores and a couple of freshmen in the mix.
“This is probably one of the younger teams North Allegheny has had in a few years,” second-year coach Andrew Siess said. “A lot of sophomores are going to be playing. A lot of juniors are going to be playing. ‘Young and hungry’ is a good way of describing this team.”
The Tigers graduated four of their top six forwards, a couple of their top defensemen and their starting goalie from last year’s team that reached the PIHL semifinals.
Gone also are their two leading scorers from a year ago, but with so many open spots in the lineup, Siess said, he sees a roster that’s motivated to earn more ice time.
“What’s great is it has really created a lot of competition within the team,” he said. “There are a lot of first-year players wanting to make their mark. And we have a bunch of returners who are ready to play in a different role. With all of that, it has created a lot of healthy competition.”
That competition includes in net, where two players are vying to replace graduated goalie Rylan Murphy. The options are senior Andrew Long and junior Camden Junker. Long was Murphy’s backup, while Junker started for the junior varsity.
“We’re taking it game by game to see ultimately where that’s going to fall,” Siess said. “We have two goalies I feel could play against any team, and both give us a really good chance to win.”
The team’s captain is senior defenseman Owen Logan, a four-year varsity player. Senior forwards Ryan Jackman and Evan Perrotte serve as alternates.
Perrotte scored a team-high 15 goals a year ago and finished fourth on the team with 21 points overall. Jackman had 11 points and three goals.
“We do have seniors who are going to play a big role,” Siess said, “but compared to years past, it’s a much younger team than we’ve had.”
Walkauskas is the top returning scorer having totaled 23 points as a freshman, including five goals.
“Luke will be a key part to our success,” Seiss said. “I’m looking for a lot out of (his line) this year.”
Another scorer to watch is junior Marc Joyson, who started this season with four goals in the team’s first two games. He played only sparingly as a sophomore a year ago and didn’t record any points.
The team had 11 seniors a year ago, so it’s no exaggeration when Siess says half of the team graduated.
“We have new players on the power play. We have new players on the penalty kill,” Siess said. “We want to see a lot of these kids excel and take the next step.”
Siess has also worked to put his own stamp on this year’s team. The veteran assistant is now entering his second year as head coach, which brings a higher level of comfort.
There were so many seniors a year ago that he tried to maintain the team’s familiar ways, but said there will be some new on-ice wrinkles.
“There’s definitely a different comfort level,” Siess said. “Last year, I thought it was important to continue with a lot of the same things we’ve done over the years. This year, a little of that pressure is gone and we’re able to make it a new feel, a new team.”
But as the coaching staff of a young team, one of the biggest roles is that of motivator.
“We’re just encouraging the hard work, the competitiveness,” Siess said. “And it really is showing within the team right now.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
Tags: North Allegheny
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