Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Down Hillers after Fast Start, Trinity Hockey Team Struggles

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Down Hillers after Fast Start, Trinity Hockey Team Struggles

Article excerpt

The Trinity Hillers are a frustrated hockey team.

After earning its first-ever PIHL playoff berth last year, this senior-laden club was hoping to have a winning record and host a playoff game in 2003-04. But heading into last Thursday night's game against South Park , their record stood at just 2-3-1.

"We're not doing too well right now. We're not playing as a team," said senior forward Josh Kelley. "We're just not playing the way we can. Once we get our heads in the game we can play better."

"I couldn't agree more," said Hillers coach Larry Marks. "I'm stumped. I don't know what it is."

Perhaps much of Trinity's sluggish start can be attributed to Marks' search to find the right combinations. Marks hasn't set his lines as of yet, in part due to some recent suspensions to some of his best players.

Forward Jeff Hildebrand was suspended for two games after receiving five penalties in a 6-1 loss to Peters Township on Nov. 10. That's when the slide began for the Hillers, who started the season with victories against Chartiers Valley and Ambridge Area during the first week of the season.

Kelley, a bit sluggish this year after coming off double-hernia surgery in August, was also ejected from the game, and since that time all of Trinity's losses have been blowout losses with the exception of a 4-4 tie to Bishop Canevin on Nov. 24.

To combat this Marks is trying to teach his team a more defensive system to keep scores low and keep the Hillers in every game.

"We're not a free-wheeling team. We play close to the vest," he said. "We'll try to possess the puck and get the puck in deep. We'll flood one area of the ice to have more bodies there and create an advantage."

His strategy to keep the scoring down begins with sophomore goalie Mikhail Alexander, who sported a 3.72 goals-against average and .868 save percentage through the first five games.

"Mickey can be as good as he wants," Marks said. "He needs to be more aggressive. He understands that now. We had a talk [between periods of the Kittanning game] and he played a lot better."

Coupled with a more aggressive style of play Marks has also moved senior Matt Warco, a dominating presence on the ice, back to defenseman after a brief experiment with him centering a line. …

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