Greensburg Salem hockey in search of ‘next step’

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | 12:45 PM


Corey Mentch would love nothing more than to continue on the path he and his alma mater are taking.

The third-year hockey coach at Greensburg Salem has revitalized a once-lowly program.

That was evident last season when, despite a bit of a roller-coaster ride in their season, the Golden Lions finished with a mark of 11-6-1 and were second in the PIHL’s Class A Southeast Division.

“We stumbled out of the gate and had trouble getting in sync early,” said Mentch, who graduated from Greensburg Salem in 2005. “Once we found our groove, it really helped our confidence and we were rolling along there. Then things got a little hit or miss there at the end of the season.

“But, as a whole, last season was another step in the right direction for our program. We were really down in the dumps there for a handful of years.”

Greensburg Salem has won 11 games in each of the last two seasons after several years near the bottom of the standings.

“We’ve advanced the program and taken steps forward the last two years,” Mentch added. “We’re looking to take that next step this year.”

Part of progressing is the collective buy-in from the team’s players into Mentch’s system.

“We’re looking to play fast and aggressive,” he said. “I think that’s what suits our roster, especially this year.”

While the Golden Lions lost their second-leading scorer in Colin Kruth (16 goals, 16 assists) to graduation, they do return their leader in goals and points in junior Owen Tutich, who hit the net 19 times last season. He assisted 16 more goals.

“He’s the most pure goal scorer I’ve ever coached,” Mentch said. “When he gets on a roll, he’s really difficult to stop. He just has a nose for the net and knows how to score.”

Jake Smith (seven goals, 15 assists in 2020-21) can bounce between multiple forward positions. Colten Humphrey brings an offensive touch to the blue line, as well.

“Anyone who watches NHL hockey these days, that’s the type of defenseman (Humphrey) plays like,” Mentch said. “He likes to rush the puck and create things.”

Nearly half of Greensburg Salem’s regulars last season were freshmen, and their growth is something Mentch is particularly thrilled to observe.

Plus, the team returns both goalies in Andrew Stead and Cam Caretti.

“They’re both seniors this year,” Mentch said. “They split the net the majority of last year until Cam ran into some injury troubles, and Andrew took over. They’re good friends, and the competition between them is healthy. They push each other. And we have trust in those guys.

“I would still love for one of them to really rise and make it their cage and make our decision obvious. But they’re really good goaltenders.”

Given the PIHL’s structure of reclassifying teams based off of success, Class A looks a bit more open this year following the departure of 2020-21 champ Indiana, which went 20-0 last season.

But runner-up Chartiers Valley is back, Fox Chapel appears to be a budding powerhouse and, in Greensburg Salem’s division, it will meet Westmont Hilltop, Norwin and the Kiski Area team that bounced it from the postseason.

“I think we’re going to be in an incredibly difficult division,” Mentch said. “I expect our division to be very competitive. There’s a handful of teams we expect to be contenders.

“It’s going to be a real interesting season in Class A this year.”

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