East Xtra: 'Gold Line' powers Norwin hockey

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The line of Dan Merz, Timmy Palmer and Dante Youhon was nicknamed the "Gold Line" by the Norwin hockey team because of the color they wear during practice.

The trio has more than lived up to the name.

The three players combined to score 19 goals through the first five games this season, with Merz leading the way with 13 goals and 16 points, both of which led the PIHL Class AAA through Sunday. The top line has helped Norwin start 3-2 with a league-best 30 goals.

"We're pretty good friends off the ice -- we hang out together and talk all the time -- and I think that helps," Merz said.

Merz, a senior, and juniors Palmer and Youhon, also played together last season and were the top three scorers for Norwin, a Penguins Cup quarterfinalist.

"The three have played together as a unit for a few seasons now," Reith said. "That's rare in high school hockey to have that. They really like to play together."

Merz is on pace to shatter his total of 22 goals last season. He said he worked hard in the offseason to get much faster on the ice.

But what Reith is most impressed with has nothing to do with his physical skills.

"What I really like this year is his focus," Reith said. "He was selected a captain by his teammates this year and he's really taken on the leadership role."

Palmer finished second behind Merz with 31 points last season and has nine points this season. Reith said he was one of the best players in the entire Greensburg Central Catholic preseason tournament, which Norwin won in October.

Youhon had 21 points last season and has tallied seven points so far this season. Reith said he is "one of the craftiest players I've ever seen at the high school level."

But Norwin is getting production from more than just that line. Through five games, forward Marc Swankler was second on the team with seven goals and four assists, while Alex Moxie has four goals and four assists.

Defensively, Norwin has been suspect at times, having given up 23 goals in five games. The team has some talented, experienced players on the blue line, but depth is an issue.

Robert Romeo, a senior and alternate captain for the squad, is a weapon on the team's power play.

Eli Reith is a junior who James Reith said he expects to be on the ice often this season.

"He has a ton of experience as he has been playing since he was 4 years old," James Reith said. "He is gifted offensively. He is also a smart player with great vision of the ice. He seems to consistently make the right play with the puck. We expect him to log a lot of minutes for us."

Romeo and Eli Reith play in front of Albert Chad, who is in his first year as a starter on the varsity squad. He was the only goaltender to see the ice for the Knights in the first five games, stopping 105-of-137 shots (.827 save percentage).

Merz said defense and staying out of the penalty box will be the keys for the Knights to reach their ultimate goal.

"I think a lot of us want to get to Consol [Energy Center]," Merz said, referring to the site of the Penguins Cup championship game. hsother


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