Penn Hills ball hockey team wins national tournament


Sunday, June 5, 2022 | 11:01 am

Hayden Ferra, Nate Morgan and Macin DeFazio were all on different dek ball hockey teams a year ago. When the three came together on the Penn Hills Arsenal Beaver Division team, there was little previous history tying the trio together.

“I don’t know if Hayden and Macin knew each other, but I didn’t know anyone,” said Morgan, who is a 12-year-old Monroeville resident. “I felt more comfortable starting the season. I thought our line was doing good from the start of the season.”

Chemistry developed quickly on their line. That harmony would course throughout the roster. Penn Hills Arsenal was able to win the Youth US National Tournament last month at the Leominster DekHockey Center in Leominster, Mass.

Penn Hills Arsenal won the championship 3-2 in overtime over the Jr. Americans, who are based in Leominster.

Penn Hills Arsenal was able to go 10-0 between the Midwest Regional and Youth Nationals. Billy Sullivan, Director of Hockey Operations at Greater Pitt Dek Hockey, said Penn Hills Arsenal hadn’t won a youth national championship since 2002.

Brian Lehneke, who has 25 years of coaching experience between ice and ball hockey, said he was pleased with how the team jelled.

“Our chemistry was strong,” Lehneke said. “We have a big group of kids who have played together for a long time. We were able to add a few other kids and they fit well together.”

Ferra, who lives in Fox Chapel, moved over to Penn Hills Arsenal from Riverview Dek Hockey because he wanted to play with some friends. From early practices, Ferra, who is 13, believed this team could be one that may contend for titles.

“Our ball movement and the way we talk to each other,” Ferra said, describing what the team does well. “We are all able to move the ball well. … We thought we’d kill everyone.”

The championship game against the Jr. Americans was Penn Hills Arsenal’s stiffest challenge. For most of the game, Defazio felt Penn Hills got pushed around. With five minutes remaining, the Jr. Americans were clinging to a 2-1 lead.

“The fact we were able to come back into that game was mind-blowing,” said DeFazio, who is a 13-year-old Penn Hills resident. “We were getting outworked the entire second half of the game.”

Things turned in the late stages of the game. Liam Lehneke evened the score with four minutes remaining by scoring a power-play goal to force overtime.

All the nerves of sudden death didn’t linger with Penn Hills Arsenal. Morgan banged in a rebound in the first minute of overtime to give them the title.

“It was nerve-racking,” Ferra said. “When we got that power play (late in regulation), things got better. In overtime, it was as intense as it had been year. All those nerves went away when the ball went in the net.”

Penn Hills Arsenal was glad to be back on top. The program had waited a long time for another chance to win at nationals.

“It was very exciting,” DeFazio said. “Playing with that line was fun and the fact we were able to move the ball against good teams was awesome.”

Thanks to strong movement and synergy among teammates, Penn Hills Arsenal was able to win another championship.

“I thought this team was something special from the first practice,” Morgan said. “We clicked well.”

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