East Xtra: Greensburg Salem hockey finds strength in co-op numbers
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Despite having low numbers the past few seasons, Greensburg Salem had never entered into what some other PIHL Open Division teams have through the years -- a co-op merger.
The Golden Lions were even shorter on players than usual this season, however. So out of necessity, they teamed with Ligonier Valley, Mount Pleasant and Jeannette to form a team this season.
If the first game of the season was any indication, the merger is going to be a success.
Greensburg Salem beat Carrick, a playoff team last season, 12-3 in the season's first game for both teams on Oct. 29. Forward Jonathan Finger, who played for Ligonier Valley last season, led the team with four goals in the contest.
"It was eye-opening," Finger said of his team's performance against Carrick.
Finger is the most heralded addition to the Golden Lions after leading Ligonier Valley in points last season with 34.
"He has some hands and speed," Greensburg Salem coach Michael Steinhauser said. "The guy is a player and a very nice addition to our team."
Finger was one of five Ligonier players that came to the Golden Lions in the co-op, along with John Demarchi, Chris Pavlan, Alex Kraisinger and Brandon Harclerode. Demarch has been one of the team's better defensemen, while Harclerode and Kraisinger scored two goals each against Carrick.
These additions, along with the return of Greensburg Salem players Cody Austad, Logan Davis, Tyler Brinton and Shawn Sperlik, who combined to score 87 points last season, have given the Golden Lions great depth this season.
"Last year, we had a very short bench, but this year we are a lot deeper," Steinhauser said. "I knew when we did the co-op we were going to get a lot of good players. I just didn't know how they would mesh."
The team had the opportunity to get to know each other through the program's dry-land workouts over the summer, which consisted of cardio and plyometric workouts twice a week from June through August.
"[The workouts] helped us create a bond," Finger said. "It helped us get some chemistry."
The added talent has raised already high expectations for the Golden Lions. Even with a short bench last season, Greensburg Salem advanced to the Chiefs Cup final, where it lost to Indiana.
Now, anything less than the Chiefs Cup championship would be disappointing.
"The ultimate goal is to win the Chiefs Cup," Finger said. "Last year, they lost in the Chiefs Cup final. This year, the team is looking for revenge."
They are scheduled to play tonight against Ford City.