East Xtra: Norwin coach-son combo savors a special moment

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Amid a difficult season, Norwin's James and Eli Reith were still able to share a special moment.

On Feb. 7 against Penn-Trafford, Eli Reith scored the game-winner with 4:16 to play in the third period to give the Knights their first victory in 15 tries this season, 3-2.

The Knights, 2-17 after Tuesday's 10-2 loss to Seneca Valley, have since won a second game, but when the final horn went off at the end of the Penn-Trafford game, the senior defenseman went to find his father, Knights coach James Reith, to share a moment they weren't sure would happen this season.

"We didn't say anything to each other, we just looked at each other and smiled and then hugged," said Eli Reith, who has been coached by his father in high school and amateur hockey for most of his life. "We've never done that after a game, but we did something we thought may not be possible. It was something special."

Norwin had made the playoffs in each of Eli Reith's other two seasons on the varsity team, but heavy graduation attrition the past few years caught up with the Knights this season.

Often times, Norwin doesn't have more than two defensemen for games, so Reith and Sean Wallace will play all 51 minutes on the blue line.

"It's inspiring to see [Eli] and his partner, Sean Wallace, play the whole game and work as hard as they do," James Reith said. "They'll make some tremendous play in the third period and just the dedication and full out effort they display without sitting down for 51 minutes is inspiring."

When the Knights do have enough defensemen, Eli Reith will sometimes move up to forward, a position he played in travel hockey before entering high school.

Being the son of a coach who has played -- James Reith played goaltender at Duquesne -- and coached hockey throughout his life has given Eli Reith the knowledge of how to play each position on the ice effectively.

"When you're a goaltender, you see the game a different way," Eli Reith said. "You sit back there and can watch everything on the ice in front of you. So [my father] has knowledge of everything on the ice.

"When I transitioned from forward to defense, his knowledge was irreplaceable. He's made me into the player I am."

The player Reith is is a two-time PIHL all-star who was voted by the Knights as the team captain.

James Reith had nothing to do with his son's selection as captain, as the vote was done by Norwin's players. In fact, the Reiths pride themselves on their on-ice relationship being like any other player-coach relationship.

"Privately, the thing I'm most proud of is that if you looked on the ice during one of our practices or games, and didn't know who we were, you wouldn't know we were related," James Reith said.

"He never expected anything; he knew he would be treated like any other player. It's been a real honor to watch his game excel."

While the two have a professional relationship on the ice, once the game ends, the two are back to being father and son.

The time driving to and from the rink for practices and games is something the duo is going to miss when Reith's high school career comes to an end.

"I'm really going to miss the time we spent together to and from the rinks over the years," James Reith said. "Just talking about the game and getting his insight, I'll deeply miss that."

But the knowledge James passed on to his son won't be forgotten. Eli Reith is looking to play hockey next season, with his No. 1 choice following in his father's footsteps at Duquesne.

If he does play next year, it'll be one of the few times in his life his father won't be on the bench. But Eli Reith feels that the knowledge gained over the years from his father will carry on.

"It'll be a weird feeling coming to the bench and not having him there, but he prepared me to play other people's systems," Eli Reith said. "So I'll be prepared for it."

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