West Xtra: Future bright for West Allegheny

HOCKEY

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Last year at this time, West Allegheny was putting the finishing touches on a regular season where it won 18 of 21 games.

The Indians earned the No. 1 seed in the PIHL Class AA Penguins Cup playoffs, which they won with a 4-3 overtime victory against Erie Cathedral Prep.

This year has been different, however. West Allegheny (5-12-2) finished its season Monday with a 4-1 loss to Latrobe and will be at home when the playoff teams take to the ice next week.

"On the whole, it's been disappointing," West Allegheny coach Tim Veach said. "It's not where we wanted to be.

"We had a chance in a lot of games, if we could have just maintained our composure and focus."

More than half of West Allegheny's losses came by three goals or fewer. And the Indians remained competitive with the league's best teams, including tying Bishop Canevin and Chartiers Valley.

"It was a lack of maturity, not a lack of skill," Veach said about his team's struggles.

Part of the problem was the Indians graduated 11 seniors from the Penguins Cup champion squad.

And while West Allegheny added some impressive young players, junior forward Matt Grebosky said the team didn't have the same drive this season.

"We may have lacked some of the skill from last year, but what we really lacked was the commitment," Grebosky said.

Veach also took some responsibility, saying that the team's lack of discipline was partly on his shoulders.

West Allegheny led Class AA in penalty minutes with 435.

"This season, the penalties are behind the play and out of retaliation and frustration," Veach said. "They show a lack of maturity and as the coach I have to take some of the blame and responsibility for that."

While the lack of maturity seemed to be a theme for the Indians this season, Veach did see many of his underclassmen start to gain leadership qualities as the season progressed.

"The young guys started to show flashes of leadership," Veach said. "As a whole, they were never really quiet. I thought that despite our record, the guys maintained a very good attitude and started to show some exceptional leadership toward the end of the season."

Two of the young players West Allegheny will be counting on in the future are Jess Ligas and Sean Weber. Two freshmen forwards, they finished first and second, respectively, on the team in scoring and Ligas was the only freshman in Class AA to be named to the PIHL All-Star Game.

Grebosky, who finished third on the team in scoring despite missing the first four games of the season, played on a line with those two freshmen upon his return and said the pair has already developed a great rapport.

"They have awesome chemistry," Grebosky said. "They play sometimes in amateurs, too, so it's not just high school hockey. Just playing on the same line as them, it's been great."

Those three will be the main cogs for the Indians next season if they want to return to the top of the league, which Veach thinks is possible.

"It's hard to predict because the guys have to be willing to put the work in and you never know what the intangibles of a team will be," Veach said. "But there's no lack of talent.

"We didn't lose because we were bad. We lost because we made mistakes at important times."

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