For the past four seasons, Freeport didn't have to worry about who it was putting in goal every night.
Cody Lee was the netminder for the Yellowjackets throughout his entire career. As a senior, he led the PIHL Class A in wins and finished first in save percentage amongst goaltenders who played at least half their teams' games.
So Freeport coach Dave Hepler didn't know what to expect in net this season from sophomore Dom Digiacobbe, and freshmen Matt Huston and Katie Hill.
"We knew we had three good goalies, but they were all young so we didn't know how they would play," Hepler said.
He certainly didn't expect them to combine to go 7-1-1 with a goals-against average below 2.00 and a save percentage of .917.
"I'm really surprised," senior Justin Drzemiecki said. "They've really stepped up so far and played as well as Cody did last season."
Freeport has held its opponents to two goals or fewer in five of the eight games. But the Yellowjackets' stinginess hasn't all been about the goaltenders.
Because of the inexperience of his netminders, Hepler began stressing puck possession back in the preseason. While his goaltenders were young and inexperienced, he had 14 returning players at the other positions and thought he could use that skill to help out the goalies.
"We didn't know what we had in net, but we knew there was a bunch of skill on the team," Hepler said. "We wanted to have more puck possession. If we can possess the puck more, it limits the other team's chances."
Freeport has only given up an average of 24.2 shots per contest.
"We have a defense-first attitude," Freeport senior Greg Newman said.
Newman has been pretty good offensively for Freeport, as he leads the team with 16 points. But two freshmen have also been a key part of the Yellowjackets' offense. Michael Frazetta is second on the team with 12 points, while Stone Haberstroh has a team-best nine goals.
The freshmen's play has helped offset the fact that the team's leading scorer a year ago, Cole Hepler, has missed the past six games because of an injury.
"In the end, Cole's injury may end up helping our team," Dave Hepler said. "Some of the younger guys may have been looking for Cole or looking at Cole to make the pass. Now they are stepping up and scoring for us."
One of the games Cole Hepler missed was against the Quakers, a 4-1 loss for Freeport. Quaker Valley is undefeated and the favorite to defend its state title, but the Freeport players are confident they are capable of dethroning the champs.
"We didn't have Cole for that game, and we still hung with them," Drzemiecki said. "I think if we were on top of our game, we would have beaten them."
The teams will play again on Feb. 7.