PIHL Team of the Week: Dec. 8, 2019

Monday, December 9, 2019 | 7:48 PM

Chris Serakowski is in his second season as the head coach of Carrick’s varsity hockey team, and he has a message that he and his staff have been preaching to the Cougar players this season, a season removed from a fifth-place finish in the final Division 2 standings last year, and only two years removed from a one-win season.

“We’ve been giving them the get-on-the-bus mentality that we are one,” he said. “Get with what we’re teaching and what we’re trying to coach and we will be successful as a team.”

It has worked.

Class B is split in two divisions year. Carrick is in with defending champ Ringgold, Connellsville, Elizabeth Forward, Trinity, Bishop Canevin and Morgantown.

Look at the standings as of Dec. 8, and you’ll find Carrick in second place in the South division. The Cougars have only lost one game this season, by one goal to Ringgold. Carrick is 8-1 and has allowed the fewest goals in the classification with 15.

Carrick’s two wins this past week have earned the Cougars honors as the new TribLIVE High School Sports Network PIHL Team of the Week.

Carrick defeated Wilmington, 11-3, Monday and Central Valley, 6-1, Thursday night, in large part due to the play of the two special-teams units.

“The Wilmington game, special teams played a huge part for us. We’ve bene concentrating on that a lot this year,” Serakowski said. “We got off to a slow start, but once our kids get that wake-up call, they seem to get locked in and go from there.”

Wilmington scored first, about six minutes in, before Carrick scored 11 of the final 13 goals, including the next five.

Carrick was 1-2 on the power play and stopped five of the six chances Wilmington had on the penalty kill.

On top of that, Carrick scored four short-handed goals.

Mikey Farkal scored three goals and added an assist. Ian Norkevicus, Jack Jones and Nicholas Cindrich also scored. Sean Dugan stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced in net.

“Our penalty killers are very disciplined, and we have a lot of speed on that unit too, but the discipline itself on both special teams units has been a big reason for our success,” Serakowski said. “We can have games like that. We have a very high-powered offense this year. We also have offensive defensemen, which helps, and our scoring is spread out.”

The Cougars found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 score to start Thursday’s game as well, but rallied to score the final six goals, after trailing just 1 minute, 16 seconds in.

Aaro Larson’s first-period goal tied the game before Norkevicus broke the tie on the power play early in the second. Farkal, Ethan Wright, Kristopher Connely and Tyson Feldman also scored. Connelly’s goal was short-handed, and Feldman’s was a man-advantage tally.

Dugan made 19 saves on 20 shots on goal. Carrick recorded 38 shots on goal, was perfect on the penalty kill in four chances and 50% on the power play in the same amount of opportunities.

“Sean Dugan played phenomenal and he’s been solid all year. He’s the only goalie we’re carrying on varsity, so he knows it’s his net and what he needs to do,” Serakowski said. “After the first goal, we just had to settle the troops down and do what we needed to do. Central Valley gave us a good game, and I don’t think the score shows how well they played.”

The discipline of the special teams continued to shine, as Serakowski also said the team, in both games, was without a few key players, but had JV guys and others step up.

Serakowski said the team, led by its seven seniors, just wants it, and that’s been a big reason for their success.

“The younger guys see how bad the seniors want it and it’s a trickle-down effect,” Serakowski said. “We think we can compete with anyone, and we keep telling the kids that. If we keep playing as a team and everyone stays on the bus, if you will, we will have success.”

Carrick returns to the ice Dec. 16 at Avonworth, in its only league game in the remainder of the calendar year.

Honorable Mention:

Upper St. ClairThe Panthers continued on their roll, moving to 6-3 on the season and into a tie for second place in the Class AAA standings with a 4-0 win over Seneca Valley, which is also in that tie, Monday. Upper St. Clair was excellent on the penalty kill, as it thwarted all five Raiders’ opportunities on the man advantage in the shutout win.

North HillsThe Indians defeated Wheeling Catholic in what was one of this past week’s more lopsided wins in the league. North Hills won the tilt, 12-1.

Ringgold – The defending champs in Class B, or Division 2 of last year, are still unbeaten this season. The Rams moved to 9-0 to start the year with a 12-4 triumph over Burrell on Monday night last week. That was the first time the two teams met this season after meeting in the title game last year.

NorwinNormally, 17 goals and a shutout in that same game would get you team of the week honors, but the Knights settle this week for second in that race, but score three players, Logan Connelly, Mason Pivarnik and Jacob Dally as co-players of the week, for their efforts in the Knights’ 17-0 victory over Sewickley Academy. Norwin outshot SA 58-12, as they simply overpowered what is a small roster for the Indians.

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