Greensburg Salem hockey has high expectations after strong start

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Tuesday, November 1, 2022 | 3:24 PM


In his four seasons as hockey coach at Greensburg Salem, Corey Mentch hasn’t seen a Golden Lions team offer this much potential.

Whether they can deliver is another matter.

Despite getting 12 victories last season, the most under Mentch, Greensburg Salem was left out of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League playoffs on a three-team tie-breaker.

“Got a chip on our shoulder, for sure,” Mentch said. “But, also, we know we left points on the board. We had games we know we could have won and we didn’t.

“Last year (12-8-0, 24 points) was a head scratcher. We had all this skill and we just had so much trouble getting things to click. There was just something missing. You couldn’t tell what it was, but now you can sense the energy around them. They’re a cohesive team this year and they’re the best of friends.”

The chemistry has really shown up in the early going for Greensburg Salem, which has annihilated its first three PIHL opponents by a combined 26-3 heading into a scheduled Tuesday night Class A showdown with Norwin at Palmer Imaging Arena in Delmont.

Like Greensburg Salem, the Knights are 3-0 on a trio of lopsided scores, as well. Norwin has outscored its opponents, 29-3.

“We’re going to see strong competition,” Mentch said. “It’s early, so it’s hard to get a real barometer on where everybody is. And we’ve got some new teams, too, that have just come down from Double-A, and that makes things more difficult to distinguish.”

Senior forward Owen Tutich leads Greensburg Salem in scoring with 12 points after getting four assists in the Golden Lions’ 8-0 victory over Freeport on Thursday at Nevin Arena in Greensburg.

“He came in as a freshman (in 2019) and produced right away,” Mentch said. “He put up 30-something points. That’s not common for a freshman. He has a ton of confidence. He’s as focused as can be.”

Because many high school-aged hockey players generally opt to play for advanced-level travel teams, Mentch is grateful for such a potentially strong and loyal roster.

“I have three Triple-A (caliber) players here and they want to be here,” Mentch said, referring to Tutich, senior defenseman Colton Humphrey and junior forward Carter Cherok.

“We have skill and depth not like anything since I’ve been here,” Mentch said. “We’ve had top-end skill every year I’ve been here. The depth has been an issue.”

For Mentch, perhaps that was the missing ingredient a year ago.

“This year, I’m putting my sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth forwards out there and those are all kids that can really play,” he said. “Like, they can go out there and I can expect them to produce. That wasn’t always the case. That’s just not the case in Single-A.”

Junior forward Chase Kushner, senior forward Sam Spigarelli and junior defenseman Noah Outly are others for whom Mentch singled out for their strong early play.

Tutich, Spigarelli and Outly serve as team captains.

After Greensburg Salem held Freeport without a goal on only five shots, Mentch gave a shoutout to the team’s defense, Outly in particular.

“Noah Outly is one of the smartest defensemen I’ve ever coached,” Mentch said. “He’s always been smart about things and he’s always been dependable. But this year, he’s got this confidence with the puck that’s just came out of nowhere. He’s rushing the puck, he’s making plays, he’s jumping up into plays. He’s going to be a fantastic player.”

Sophomore Tristan Gonzales and junior Ethan Patrick have shared time in goal for the Golden Lions, both giving up a goal so far.

Coming off a stellar record, despite the playoffs miss of a year ago, Mentch said he believes Greensburg Salem can make a run at the PIHL Varsity A Blue Division championship and qualify for the postseason.

Heading into the week, Fox Chapel was leading the division with eight points, followed by Greensburg Salem and Norwin with six each.

Following its game against Norwin on Tuesday, Greensburg Salem will be idle until a Nov. 3 rematch with Westmont Hilltop at 1st Summit Arena at Cambria County War Memorial in Johnstown. The Golden Lions routed the Hilltoppers, 11-1, on Oct. 13 at Nevin Arena.

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