Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peters Changes Its Style, Not Results

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Peters Changes Its Style, Not Results

Article excerpt

Peters Township came into this high school hockey season as the two-time defending state champions.

The Indians have put four players into Junior hockey from those squads. More of the same was expected of them this season.

Then Peters, which began this season on a 13-game winning streak, lost its season opener to South Park, 4-2.

"We beat ourselves," Peters coach Mark Cooper recalled. "We took a lot of penalties and lost our control. Give South Park credit, though, they outplayed us."

True, one game doesn't make a season, but Cooper knew that the ways of Indians past had to be shelved. In its place came a renewed emphasis on fundamentals over free-lancing, and the Indians have won eight in a row since the opening-night loss.

It used to be Peters was so strong that it didn't have to worry about penalties. Short-handed situations didn't diminish the chances of, say, forward Christian Hanson, currently a forward for the USHL Tri-City Storm, or Christian Minella, now a right winger for the Sioux City Musketeers of the same league, to use their skating ability to create a breakaway and score.

But the season opener proved they couldn't do that anymore.

"We can't play the run-and-gun style of the past," said Cooper. "We changed up some forechecking schemes. We changed our powerplay units. Changed the defensive zone coverage. Little tweaks like that because of personnel . . . every year in high school you have to adjust to what you have."

So now the Indians stress fundamentals more than ever before. Rule No. 1: No stupid penalties.

"It's nice to fly under the radar. There's a chance for more coaching," Cooper said.

A case in point might be center Chris Clackson, perhaps the Indians' top returning player. Clackson had never been afraid to rough it up before and took five penalties in the opener against South Park. Since then, he's taken one, and Cooper benched him for two shifts for it.

"We thought if it was stupid, you sat. He picked up a dumb penalty for punching someone," the coach said.

The discipline has been so enforced that on Dec. 4 in Peters' 3- 2 win against Greensburg Central Catholic, neither team took so much as a single penalty. …

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