The Central York ice hockey team has been blessed with loads of talent and experience over the past few years.
That has helped to raise the Panthers into the upper echelon of Tier 1 in the Central Penn Interscholastic Hockey League.
But after graduating five seniors from last year's club, which finished fifth at 10-8, Coach Rick Lefever is bracing for some growing pains this season.
That was obvious Monday night at the York City Ice Arena, when the Panthers played host to Cedar Crest in the regular-season opener for both squads. Despite getting an early power-play tally from Brandon Linker in the first period, the young and inexperienced Panthers allowed the Falcons to seize control in the second.
The visitors, who got a pair of goals each from Jake Horacek and Kyle Harris, blitzed the hosts with a three-goal surge over a three-minute span midway through the period that sparked a 6-1 victory.
"We were out of gas," Lefever said. "It was our first game and we have a lot of inexperience. This is going to be a learning experience year."
Horacek (two goals, two assists) and Harris (two goals, three assists) struck for tallies just 23 seconds apart in the second to turn a one-goal deficit around in a hurry.
"We dropped our heads when we lost the lead," Lefever said. "We have a young team and a lot of inexperience. That's our biggest issue right now."
Paul Marakowski (one goal, three assists) capped off the blitz by lighting the lamp 2:50 after Horacek's goal. Horacek completed the Falcons' four-goal period with a marker at the 15:15 mark to make it 4-1 after two stanzas.
"We're going to battle for all three periods," Lefever said. "We played a good first period and a fairly solid third, but the second period we didn't play well. We've got to play hard for all three periods."
Harris and Ian Hibshman scored in the third for a Cedar Crest squad that is one of several clubs making a move in the CPIHL's three tiers. The Falcons are in their first year in Tier 1 after playing in Tier 2 previously.
Other major changes around the CPIHL include two teams -- Mechanicsburg and Elizabethtown -- who are no longer fielding teams this season. Three others -- Lower Dauphin, Central Dauphin and Hempfield -- all moved from Tier 1 down to Tier 2. Replacing those three schools are Cedar Crest, Palmyra and Manheim Township.
There were also some changes in the local ranks as well. West York, which had played in Tier 2 for many years, dropped down to Tier 3 this year. Also, the combination team from York Suburban and York Catholic has bowed out of the league.
Dallastown remains in Tier 1 with Central York, while Susquehannock joins West York in Tier 3.
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.