Numbers boost Greensburg Salem hockey during fast start

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Sunday, December 22, 2019 | 5:58 PM


A year ago, Greensburg Salem’s hockey team had to battle not only opponents but low player numbers, as well.

That’s not the case this season. The Golden Lions have received an infusion of youth to boost the roster.

“We have a lot of young talent, and that really helps with our depth,” Greensburg Salem junior Colin Kruth said. “Having depth is a huge advantage for us. There were several games last year we played with eight or nine players, and we were all just winded. We have depth now, and it’s really good depth, too.”

The full lineup has allowed the Golden Lions to focus solely on battling their opponents. Heading into the holiday break, Greensburg Salem (6-3-0-1) was among the PIHL’s better Class A teams with 13 points.

“The players are excited about the first half that we’ve been able to put together,” Greensburg Salem coach Corey Mentch said. “These guys have been through the thick and thin of it the past few years. They are ecstatic about getting things going the right way. These guys have been driven to turn this around.”

The team’s strong start invigorated the program.

“I am really happy with the start we’ve had. I am a senior now, and we have had a few slow starts and some bad seasons in the past,” Greensburg Salem’s Brendon Linderman said. “It’s real fun playing for high school and actually winning. We have a big student section now at games, and it’s been great.”

The Golden Lions’ offense is a strength. The team’s 63 goals scored rank second in Class A.

“Early on, it was apparent to me that we could score,” said Mentch, who moved up as head coach from the middle school program this season. “I could tell we had some skill. We could move the puck around, and we had some shooters and some guys who have a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net.”

Cole McNair leads the team with 18 goals and 32 points. Linderman (14 goals, 23 points), Kruth (11, 21), Owen Tutich (10, 20) and Jake Smith (4, 14) are in double figures. Five other players have scored at least a goal.

“We have some secondary scoring, which is nice,” Mentch said. “Early on, we won some run-and-gun games. It was pretty stressful for me, but we learned a few things. We’re learning to play defense now. Our last couple games have been our best defensive games, so far.”

Cullen Carney, Preston Henry, Aaren Putt, Dylan Eikey, Colten Humphrey and Landon Morrison are the team’s primary defensemen. They’ve all registered at least a point on offense, as well.

“My defensemen don’t show up on the scoresheet a lot, but those numbers say nothing about the steps they’ve taken,” Mentch said. “They jump start plays with quick passes and create space for themselves. They’re improving.”

Goaltenders Andrew Stead and Cam Caretti have shared time in the crease.

“They’ve pretty much been split. They have their spurts where they play fantastic,” Mentch said. “They have been playing well together as a tandem. They push each other in practice. They are good friends, and it’s a good, healthy competition.”

The Golden Lions won their final two games heading into the holiday break. They hope to keep the momentum going when they return to the ice Jan. 6 against Beaver.

“Winning our last two definitely boosted our confidence. Earlier in the season, we had a four-game winning streak, and that helped us emotionally,” Kruth said. “We can see we’ve made some real improvements. Already, we have more wins than we did last year, and that makes us believe in ourselves even more.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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