Window still open for Greensburg Salem hockey

Monday, November 6, 2023 | 10:48 AM

Entering his fifth year as hockey coach at Greensburg Salem, Corey Mentch knows the window of opportunity for a Penguins Cup still exists for his team.

His Lions missed a shot to lift the cup last year, but this year affords the team another chance.

“We realized a few years ago that we had a window,” Mentch said. “We’ve been successful, but we haven’t been able to get that Penguins Cup. Those chances don’t come often. I hope we take advantage of the opportunity if it presents itself again.”

Last year, Greensburg Salem finished 17-3 (34 points), second in the Class A Blue Division. The Lions beat Shaler in the quarterfinals but lost to eventual champ Kiski Area in the semifinals.

Greensburg Salem will continue with the same offensive style it played last year, even though Colten Humphrey, Sam Spigarelli, Logan Morrison and leading scorer Owen Tutich graduated.

“Offensively, we want to possess the puck,” Mentch said. “We’re in a rut to begin this season. We just need to sharpen things up.”

Up front, the Lions will look for production from senior forwards Mikey Kingerski, Kason Tai, Hunter Webb and assistant captains Carter Cherok and Chase Kushner.

“We have some talent on the top end, and we’ve got some depth,” Mentch said. “We have five freshmen on the roster playing substantial roles. We’re trying to get them comfortable, build their confidence.”

One such freshman is winger Jake Fink, who caught Mentch’s eye with a solid preseason.

“He scored a hat trick in our first game against Elizabeth Forward in our preseason tournament,” Mentch said. “He scored three more times in that tournament but only found the net once in four games played to start the regular season.”

There is a belief Fink has the skills to be a force offensively.

“He’s got strong offensive instincts,” Mentch said. “He’s very good around the net.”

The Lions also are looking to utilize the talents of freshman Ace Klingensmith. Even though Klingensmith is a natural defenseman, Mentch thinks his acumen lends more on the offensive end.

“He has a high hockey IQ, and it shows in practice,” Mentch said. “He’s not being told what to do. He just does everything instinctually.”

The strongest part of the Lions squad is the defense, spearheaded by senior captain Noah Outly.

“Oulty is a smart, steady D-man with a decent amount of offensive upside,” said Mentch. “He can move the puck, make that first pass and can carry it himself.”

Joining Outly on the blue line are seniors Dylan Swierczynski, Luke Dinkel and Max Addison, as well as freshmen Cooper Oulty and Klingensmith.

“Dylan is a natural athlete and is starting to round into form as a hockey player,” Mentch said. “Max is a steady defenseman and a good skater, and Luke has a simple game. Having four seniors should spell a lot of success for us.”

In net, the Lions return two veteran goaltenders who allowed the fewest goals (35) in all of Class A last season.

“Tristan Gonzales is our starter. He had a good first game against Mars,” Mentch said. “Ethan Patrick is our backup and is a senior. He started the Kiski game and had a shutout. Wasn’t challenged a ton, but he earned the shutout.”

Early on this season, Salem has fought its way to a 3-3 record, exemplified in a win Oct. 26 where the Lions scored four unanswered goals to beat Indiana in overtime.

The Lions probably will need to claw their way through the rest of the season as Mentch believes the division to be the toughest in Class A.

Shaler was impressive when we saw them, and they were without one of their top kids,” Mentch said. “Quaker Valley teams are always well coached, and Meadville is a program run like a college team.”

Should the Lions get steady play from the upperclassmen, substantial contributions from their freshmen and iron out a few wrinkles then they very well could fulfill their goal of lifting the Penguins Cup way before the window closes.

“We’re not drastically different in terms of how our team’s made up,” Mentch said. “We’ve put together two really stacked lines, and we’re really confident in our top four defensemen. We fix our problem areas, and we could be a very dangerous team.”


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