West Xtra: After an excellent season, West Allegheny learns to deal with losing

HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY


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The West Allegheny hockey team didn't lose its fourth game of the 2011-12 season until the state championship in March.

It happened in early December this season.

West Allegheny is 2-5-1 this season after going 21-4 and winning the Class AA Penguins Cup championship last season.

"We have to do a better job of running our system; a better job of being consistent; a better job starting games," West Allegheny coach Timon Veach said.

The team had to replace 11 seniors who graduated, so Veach expected the team to have some growing pains. Yet, after the Indians went 2-1 at the St. Margaret's Foundation Fall Faceoff preseason tournament, he didn't think things would be this bad.

"I thought there would be bumps in the road," Veach said. "But I am a little surprised about how the season has gone. I didn't think it would take us five games to get our first win."

West Allegheny's first victory came Dec. 3 against winless Montour, 6-0. Their other win was also against Montour last Thursday. The Indians also tied undefeated Bishop Canevin (6-0-2), 4-4.

But West Allegheny has lost four times in four games to North Hills and Moon, who have both gained a sizeable advantage in the Section 1-A standings on West Allegheny.

"I'm impressed with both [Moon and North Hills]," Veach said. "People kind of chuckled when I said North Hills would be much better this season. But they were a much different team at the end of last season than at the beginning. Moon has a lot of guys who have been there a long time and know how to win. It's going to be a tough section.

"We still feel like we are in the mix. It's early in the season and we still want to win the section [title] and be in contention for a championship."

West Allegheny will rely heavily on a pair of freshmen as they try to reach those goals.

Ninth-graders Jess Ligas and Sean Weber are tied for the team-lead with 15 points, while no other West Allegheny player has more than seven.

"I'm pleased with our younger players," Veach said. "We have freshmen killing penalties.

"We're getting progressively better. But no one has hit their potential yet."

To get his players to reach that potential, Veach has had to change how he handles practice.

Last season, he said the team was so focused on winning the championship that his job was made much easier. The seniors kept everyone focused on their end goal every day.

This year, practice has become a place to constantly teach the fundamentals.

"We've had to preach patience this year," Veach said. "I've had to take a more hands-on approach. We're stressing the little details each day, just trying to get better."

West Allegheny, which has no league games scheduled during the holiday break, will try to better its record next Thursday when it faces off against Chartiers Valley (6-2).

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