Hockey: Tough early schedule paying off for Serra
Roman Kraemer (3) of Serra Catholic controls the puck against Mars' Ed Schwadron, left, and Reed Salada in the Planets' 2-1 victory Nov. 21. After starting the year 1-3, Serra Catholic won its next five games.
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A tough early schedule coupled with inexperience led Serra Catholic to a 1-3 start.
But since then, the Eagles have been unbeatable.
Serra Catholic (6-3) has won five consecutive games to climb into a tie atop the Section 1-A standings after winning the section last season.
"The young guys are maturing," said Serra Catholic coach Brian Boehm. "We knew it would be tough early on."
The Eagles lost to Freeport in the opener and then Mars twice in the first three weeks of the season. The Yellowjackets and Planets are a combined 14-3-1 this season.
Serra Catholic didn't have easy games after that, either, against Kittanning and Westmont Hilltop. The two squads have a combined 11-5-2 record this season, but the Eagles escaped with one-goal wins against both teams.
That started a run of four-consecutive one-goal victories.
"We're not going to beat teams all over the ice in any game," Serra Catholic senior Tyler Speis said. "A few of the games we had to come from behind. In a few of the others, we had a lead and didn't let the team back in it.
"Our coach always tells us, 'You guys never quit. The other team can quit, but we play hard no matter what the score is.'"
In two of the four one-goal wins, freshman Roman Kraemer had the winning goal, including an overtime score against Deer Lakes. In just his first year at the varsity level, he has become a force on the team's top line.
Kraemer is the second-leading scorer for Serra Catholic with 22 points and has tallied five points in each of the team's past two games.
"We knew he was talented, but to play as well as he has so far has been a pleasant surprise," Boehm said.
Kraemer is one of many underclassmen contributing for the Eagles. Sophomore defenseman Jonathan Henschel is fifth on the team in points. Fellow sophomores William Purdue and Gian Oliver are seventh and eighth on the team in scoring. And sophomore goaltender Ian Ritchie is tied for the lead in Class A with six wins.
Ritchie has also impressed Boehm with his accountability.
"He takes responsibility for everything he does," Boehm said. "That's a tough thing for anybody, let alone a young kid. That's really impressed me."
With so many young players playing key roles for Serra, Speis has been crucial in many aspects. He is the team's top scorer with 24 points, while also contributing defensively.
Boehm can't remember a player during his tenure that has impacted the game as much as Speis has this season.
"I've said this to my assistant coaches recently, 'Enjoy what you're seeing,'" Boehm said. "Players playing the way he is don't happen very often.
"Because of our style, he isn't near the top of the scoring leaders in the league. But he's playing as well in all three zones as anyone I've had in my seven years."
Speis, along with fellow seniors Nicholas Vacsulka and Tyler Kresl, also help to lead the young squad.
"Our coach gives the captains a lot of responsibility," Speis said. "We have to make sure everyone is behaving on and off the ice and doing what they need to do."
What the Eagles tried to do next was get some revenge against Freeport in the teams' game Thursday night. Serra Catholic will play undefeated Quaker Valley Monday in a daunting start after the break.
First Published January 4, 2013 12:00 am