East Xtra: Penn-Trafford struggling on ice

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Last season, Penn-Trafford won 20 games, earned the No. 1 seed in the PIHL Class AAA tournament, had the top scorer in the classification and advanced further than any team in school history in the Penguins Cup.

This season, the Warriors are just trying to win a game.

Penn-Trafford has started the season 0-8 after finishing 19-2-1 in the regular-season last year. The Warriors then went on to win their quarterfinal playoff game against State College before falling to eventual champion Bethel Park in the Penguins Cup semifinals.

"It's been a big difference," junior Jake Miller said. "Right now, we just want to get a win."

Miller is the lone returning player from last season's regular varsity roster. The Warriors lost three of the top four scorers in PIHL Class AAA last season. Forward Dan Maier led the league in goals (43) and points (75), forward Dylan Sodrosky finished third with 65 points and had tied his teammate, defenseman Joseph Boyer, for the league lead in assists with 36. Boyer finished fourth overall in points with 55.

"Last season's team had so much speed, we were a more aggressive team," coach Brian Lehneke said. "This season, we're trying to introduce a different style of play that will work for this group of kids.

"We're also trying to get these kids' feet wet, because most of them are playing varsity for the first time."

A few players on this season's Warriors were called up for a cup of coffee with the varsity last season, but only Miller regularly played.

So instead of using an aggressive 1-2-2 attack, which Lehneke said was almost a 2-1-2, the Warriors are pulling back and using a much more simple 1-2-2 this season.

The results in the first weeks of the season were abysmal. The Warriors were outscored 36-6 in their first four games against Norwin, Butler and Central Catholic twice.

But the young Penn-Trafford team started to make improvements. It lost by only 2-0 to Shaler, and then came back from a 6-1 deficit to make a game of it against Seneca Valley before falling, 7-4. The Raiders were ranked No. 1 in PIHL Class AAA at the time.

"I think the Seneca Valley game was kind of a turnaround for us," Lehneke said. "They were beating us pretty good, but our players didn't quit."

The Warriors then jumped out to a lead in their next game against State College, before falling, 4-1. It lost to Central Catholic, 6-4, last Friday.

Miller leads the team with seven points and has been a steady presence for the Warriors, but Lehneke has also been impressed with the play of three freshmen -- Jake Graffius, Marc Anthony and Shane Riley. But all three have missed some time to play for their travel teams.

The team's schedule has been demanding as well.

Penn-Trafford has yet to face a team with a losing record this season. Unfortunately for the Warriors, only four teams on their schedule the rest of the way through the season currently have more losses than wins.

Still, Miller remains hopeful that his team can grab one of the 12 Penguins Cup playoff spots in Class AAA.

"This year, we just want to try and make the playoffs," Miller said. "Hopefully, we can also continue to build teamwork for next season."

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