West Xtra: Montour showing major improvement

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It took Montour until its 18th game of the 2012-13 season to notch its first victory.

Not only did the Spartans match that mark in their second game of this season, but through six games have almost scored as many goals as last season's team did in 19.

"We're able to force other teams into more mistakes, which leads to our attack," Montour coach Dustin Kerr said. "We also have more depth, which gives our players more legs at the end of games."

Last season, Montour only had two lines, and sometimes didn't even have that. The Spartans scored just 25 goals all season in going 1-18.

But with three lines this year, Montour already scored 19 goals in six games entering this week. And while the Spartans are just 1-4-1, they've been competitive. The Spartans beat Moon Area, a 2012-13 playoff team, tied Plum, another postseason team from a year ago, and came within one goal of tying Chartiers Valley, a 2013 Penguins Cup semifinalist.

"We're not a 1-18 team this year," junior forward Michael Skoff said.

Skoff has been one of the major reasons for Montour's newfound offensive success. He scored just three points while playing defense last season, but moved to forward after talking with Kerr during the summer.

"He told me he felt comfortable with the defensemen we had coming back and he wanted me to move up front," Skoff said. "I was excited. I wanted to play offense this year."

He's made the most of his opportunity, scoring 11 goals to lead the team. He has four multi-goal games, including hat tricks against Moon and Latrobe.

"Michael is an unbelievably hard worker," Kerr said. "Of all our players, he probably worked the hardest this offseason in the weight room and on his conditioning."

Skoff has also benefitted from playing alongside a very talented sophomore in Aiden Beck. Beck, a member of the Penguins Elite Under-16 travel team, didn't play for the Spartans last season. But he has added his playmaking ability to the lineup, assisting on eight goals while adding two of his own in just three games.

Beck missed the team's other three games due to a concussion.

"Michael and Aiden's chemistry is a little raw right now, because they haven't played together much," Kerr said. "But once they build that up, that's going to help us even more."

Despite just winning the one game last season, Montour has lofty goals. The Spartans haven't played in the playoffs since 2011, but Kerr and Skoff both believe the team can do better than just qualifying for the postseason.

"Coming into the season, a lot of people thought it would be a success if we won more than just one game," Kerr said. "But not me. I expected us to be competitive and make the playoffs.

"Now I think we can be a few games over .500 and get to the playoffs and maybe make a run."

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