Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hard Work Pays off for Hempfield

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hard Work Pays off for Hempfield

Article excerpt

When Denny Zeravica took over the Hempfield Area hockey program prior to the 2012-13 season, he had a plan for developing the Spartans into a competitive team that could stay with the elite squads in the PIHL.

Though everything remains a work in progress, it's easy to see that Hempfield is on the right track as the Spartans entered the week tied with defending champion Quaker Valley and perennial title contender Mars Area with the best record in Class A at 6-1-0.

They also led the Tier 1 Eastern Conference by two points over Deer Lakes, though the Lancers had a game in hand.

"We've been playing great so far this year," Zeravica said. "The kids have really been fantastic, the attitudes out of all of them from dry-land training to everything we do on the ice. We've got skill and we've got heart, which has driven us to where we've gotten to so far."

Two years ago Hempfield was a shambles as the team, locked into Class AAA as one of the largest schools in the area, finished an abysmal 2-16-2 and next to last ahead of Erie McDowell.

Last year the Spartans dropped to the now-defunct Open Division for a provisional developmental year and began the turnaround with a 17-3-0 record and allowed only 31 goals in 20 games.

"My first year here was just a transition year where we were just trying to get back on track and get kids who hadn't played for the program back into the program," Zeravica said. "We wanted to change the culture of the program so the kids who are going to the high school want to play for the varsity team and not just play for their weekend teams."

That influx of young talent has spurred Hempfield and helped the program make the transition from surging developmental team into a competitive Class A squad that benefited from the PIHL's offseason realignment and restructuring.

Through seven games, Hempfield was third in Class A in scoring, averaging 6. …

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