East Xtra: Latrobe seniors know what it takes to win

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Latrobe finished second in PIHL Class AA in points, led the league in goals against and tied for first in goals scored.

But the biggest advantage the Wildcats (16-3) may have heading into the playoffs is that the team's two best players know what it takes to win a championship.

Josh Singley and Shane Brudnok were both freshmen when Latrobe won the third of its three consecutive Penguins Cup and state titles in 2010, and now both are seniors trying to get back to the top.

"Our biggest advantage is we have guys who have been there before," Latrobe coach John Winebrenner said. "They can transfer that knowledge to the younger guys and let them know what it takes to win.

"Because in the playoffs, you have to block shots, make sacrifices, take shorter shifts and work hard. It's a brand new season."

A new season that usually produces more lower-scoring games.

"In the playoffs, teams generally play a more defensive-minded game," Winebrenner said.

With Brudnok as the last line of defense, Latrobe has been the best defensive team in the league this season. Latrobe only allowed 1.63 goals per game this season and no team has scored more than three goals in a contest against the Wildcats.

Among goaltenders who played more than 10 games, Brudnok finished first in Class AA in wins (15) and goals-against average (1.73), tied for first in shutouts (3) and second in save percentage (.917).

He is a three-time all-star and was the starting goaltender for the 2010 team, stopping 32-of-34 shots in the state championship.

"Shane is the backbone of our team," Singley said. "When he is hot like he usually is, we're tough to beat."

Singley, meanwhile, is the top point-scorer for Latrobe and is also a three-time all-star. He had two assists in the state title game three years ago.

But over the past month, he and the rest of the offense have had to adjust to a new system put in place by Winebrenner to get ready for the playoffs.

When Winebrenner realized in January that the team was going to make the playoffs, he started to institute an offensive system that would counteract the defensive approach most teams take in the playoffs.

"You have to make changes to your style in the playoffs and we started to do that early this year so we could practice it and wouldn't have to transition in our first playoff game."

Latrobe was able to put it to the test last Thursday in matchup with Bishop Canevin, the top seed in Class AA. The Crusaders battled back from a 2-1 deficit to win, 3-2.

But Winebrenner was happy his team played such a talented opponent heading into the postseason.

"It was a true test of our new system," Winebrenner said. "Now we can take a look, see our mistakes and correct them."

If they can do that successfully, then Singley and Brudnock can leave Latrobe the same way they started.

"I definitely want to go out on top, just like I came in," Singley said.

The Wildcats will begin postseason play tonight when they take on No. 7 seed Hampton in the PIHL Class AA quarterfinals.

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