The State College hockey team had a reminder of its success from last season nearby Thursday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
A new banner was hanging on the wall in the arena’s community rink, commemorating a Laurel Mountain Hockey League title, and just behind the bench was their championship trophy.
However, the Little Lions are vastly different this season, and they saw there is still much work to be done after falling 6-1 to Bishop Guilfoyle.
“We’re still trying to switch our play styles,” team captain Andrew Whitaker said. “Last year we could definitely depend on the individual play of some key players and we don’t have that luxury this year.”
Noah Murray scored a pair of goals for the Marauders (4-5) and Alex Lieb had a goal and two assists. Austin Klinger, Noah Taylor and John Will added the other goals.
Stephen Maher netted the lone goal for the Little Lions (4-7), who take a two-week break before returning to the ice Jan. 5 hosting Altoona.
With typically only one practice a week, and no junior varsity program, coach Rob Jacobs knows it will take some work to get the team competitive with some of the league’s top programs.
“We definitely lost a lot of seniors (from last season) and it’s a building year,” Jacobs said. “... We play every game as a developmental game. As we get toward the end of the season we’ll start playing more competitively with wins in mind, but right now it’s about building.”
The Little Lions struggled through most of the game, falling behind 6-0 by early in the third period. They were outshot 28-16 by that pooint.
“They were a step behind,” Jacobs said. “Not aggressive enough. A lot of playing as individuals.”
Even the shots State College was getting were not high quality, giving goalies Hayden Douglas and Morgan McDermott, who played the final 8:05, little trouble.
“The first two periods we were trying to make the fancy move,” Whitaker said. “We weren’t just chipping the puck in, getting shots on net, the things that we needed to do there.”
By the third period, emotions began to bubble, with many of the players familiar with each other from playing youth hockey for years either as opponents or teammates.
“Sometimes it can up the level of competitiveness,” Whitaker said. “We get hot-headed out there a little bit sometimes, which can be good, can be bad, depends on how disciplined you are.”
It resulted in eight of the game’s 11 penalties getting whistled in the third period, and giving State College a 4 on 3, and eventually a 5 on 3, power play. That brought the team’s lone goal, when Maher knocked in a rebound.
“We need to capitalize on more situations like that,” Jacobs said of the team’s power play. “It was a lot of lost races for the puck, let the other guy get it.”
Murray’s two goals were highlights for the Marauders, first racing across from the boards unchecked and dragging the puck before beating Bryant Atanasio early in the second period. Then, in the final seconds of that period, Murray raced in alone for a breakaway goal.
Atanasio made 23 saves in the loss.
“We came out flat,” Whitaker said. “We weren’t aggressive on the puck and they took advantage of it.”