South/East Xtra: A familiar face is behind Serra Catholic bench

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

The past seven seasons, coach Brian Boehm led Serra Catholic's hockey team to a 106-33-7 record, continuing a long-standing winning tradition at the Catholic school in McKeesport.

Boehm will not be with the Eagles this season after resigning in March, but players and fans will still see a familiar face behind the bench.

Dennis Tokarski, Boehm's top assistant the past four years, was named the Eagles head coach in May.

"I'm looking forward to it tremendously," Tokarski said. "It's a storied program with a lot of success."

Tokarski has been a coach in some capacity for the past 19 seasons. At the high school level, he has worked with Norwin's freshman, junior varsity and varsity programs. At the amateur level, he has coached with the Junior Penguins, AAA Amateur Penguins and the Westmoreland Eagles Hockey Association. He was also a coach for the Robert Morris Division III club team.

But this will be his first varsity head coaching gig. He was offered the position after Boehm moved to West Virginia for his wife's job. Boehm now coaches West Virginia University's club team and is glad his old job stayed in the Serra Catholic family.

"The only recommendation I made on my way out is to take someone on my staff," Boehm said. "Anyone on the staff would have gotten my recommendation, but I think they definitely got the right guy."

Tokarski said he doesn't expect to tweak too many of the practices put into place by Boehm. For instance, he plans on keeping the team's preseason regimen, including the boot camp that the players refer to as "Hell Week," in place.

There may be a difference in personality behind the bench, however.

"Dennis isn't as boisterous as I am," Boehm said. "He's a little more laid back. He always dealt with the players really well. If they had some issue with something I wanted from them, he would be there to sort it out.

"He'll have a little different role now, but he'll be able to play both roles."

Tokarski will inherit a lot of talent. Serra Catholic's top two scorers -- Tyler Speis and Nicholas Vacsulka -- from last season graduated, but only one other senior left with them.

The team returns a strong group of soon-to-be sophomores and juniors, led by sophomore forward Roman Kraemer (25 goals, 24 assists as a freshman in 2012-13), junior defenseman John Henschel (23 points) and junior goaltender Ian Ritchie (10-8 record).

Tokarski is also expecting contributions from the Eagles' five-man incoming freshman class.

With such a young team, Tokarski will lean on defenseman Jake Gunn, the team's lone senior, for leadership on a team he has high hopes for this winter.



Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?