Young Franklin Regional hockey team learning the ropes

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Saturday, October 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM


It was a tough season opener for the Franklin Regional hockey team.

The young Panthers allowed four power-play goals and dropped a 7-3 decision to Armstrong on the first night of PIHL play Oct. 3.

Franklin Regional got goals from senior forward Tim Bricker, sophomore defenseman Liam Copeland and senior forward Luke Lavrich, but mistakes and too many trips to the penalty box hurt its chances.

John Winebrenner has been coaching 28 years, the last four at Franklin Regional. He previous stops included leading Latrobe to a state title in 2012-13 and at Hempfield as an assistant.

Despite graduating 12 starters and a lot offensive firepower, Winebrenner expects another good season.

The Panthers have lost in the Penguins Cup championship the past two seasons.

When Franklin Regional played Armstrong, the Panthers were missing three key players to injuries — defenseman Brett Bowser and forwards Max Rutkowski and Max Williams. Sophomore forward Luke Anderchak returned to the lineup against Armstrong.

“It’s going to be a fun year,” Winebrenner said. “We have one league (in Class 2A) and we play every team twice. There won’t be any easy games this season. When you step on the ice, you better be ready to play. I don’t see anyone walking through this league.”

Winebrenner said being out of position caused mistakes and penalties, something the Panthers have to clean up.

Franklin Regional will be relying on Lavrish, who scored 15 goals and had 14 assists, and senior forward Matt Knizner, who had 15 goals and eight assists, to carry the offense.

“We have to find some secondary scoring,” Winebrenner said. “Once we get Brett, our defense will be a lot better.

“We have a lot of talented players throughout the levels at Franklin Regional. I’m really excited about some of the sophomores.”

Winebrenner said the experienced players have to step up and show their leadership to the younger players.

Winebrenner said he was pleased how the team performed in a preseason tournament.

“The players know the system we are running. They just have to execute it,” Winebrenner said. “Once they do, I expect things will be a lot better.”

Some of the players Winebrenner said he expects to play significant roles include senior forward Ethan Gray, sophomore forward Nicholas Matus, freshman forward Joe Casella, freshman forward Ethan Hoff, senior forward R.J. Kelley and senior goaltender Nolan Shilling.

Paul Schofield is a TribLive reporter covering high school and college sports and local golf. He joined the Trib in 1995 after spending 15 years at the Daily Courier in Connellsville, where he served as sports editor for 14 years. He can be reached at pschofield@triblive.com.

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