HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY: Indiana sticking with familiar formula as puck drops on another season
Since the team’s return to varsity hockey two years ago, the Indiana Indians have been a team that likes to generate offense in transition, quickly getting up the ice and generating odd-man rushes and generally being aggressive on offense.
Despite some personnel changes, the plan is similar and the championship aspirations haven’t gone away, as Indiana looks to run and gun in its third season in the PIHL Open Division, which opens today at S&T Bank Arena with an 8 p.m. faceoff against Ringgold.
“We are taking chances in anticipating in neutral ice,” coach Dom Glavach said. “We’ll be a little more aggressive with how many guys we put on the puck and not have to play so conservatively, because we have guys that can jump in and make it a 4-on-1. That’s probably the biggest difference.”
The Indians lost their top scorer by far in Pat Hunter (42 goals, 23 assists, 65 points in 18 regular-season games), but return the remainder of their top five scorers in forwards Jess Bartholow and Camden Lydick, who are seniors, Dominick Glavach, a sophomore, and defenseman T.J. Petro. This offensive core will be supplemented by junior Luke Lewandowski, an offensively gifted forward who has been shifted to defenseman, and another offensive defenseman in senior Noah Moody.
So, the coach’s plan goes along with his personnel.
“We changed a couple parts of our game to be a little more aggressive, because we have a little bit more of an offensive-minded defense,” Dom Glavach said. “The defensemen, with the style that I play in Petro and Lewandowski, you have really offensive-minded, transitional and fast guys that can take chances, but still get back.”
Getting back on defense will be more important this year with the graduation of Austin Moody, who was Indiana’s bedrock at goaltender the past two seasons. His stability allowed the Indians to be more aggressive, knowing they’d often get bailed out on defense. This year, though, Indiana has a couple inexperienced netminders in sophomore Zane McElhenny, who appeared in three varsity games last year, and junior Bo Anderson.
“What you risk there is clearly giving up odd-man rushes and maybe giving up a goal or two, but really I’m counting on the offense that we’re going to be able to produce to offset some of those chances,” Dom Glavach said. “I think we’ll be able to make up for the bit of aggressiveness just in the number of times we’ll be able to put the puck in the net.”
There’s no clear starter in net heading into the season.
“I think this year it’s really going to be one of those game-time decisions,” Dom Glavach said. “It’s really who’s got the hot hand. Both guys are plenty capable. They both played behind a very solid Austin Moody, so it was tough to get guys games. Every game’s going to be a new experience for them as well as the defensemen in front of them.”
Indiana is coming off another playoff heartbreak, having lost to Ford City in the Chiefs Cup final last season. The Indians went a step further in 2011-12, winning the Chiefs Cup and losing the Open Cup final to Quigley.
Formerly an Open Division Section 3 rival, Ford City is no longer on Indiana’s schedule. With Ford City and Kittanning high schools set to merge for the 2014-15 school year, the schools’ hockey programs combined a year ahead of time and will play in Class AA.
Greensburg Salem, another rival, remains in the section, as does Altoona. Hempfield, Gateway and Greensburg Central Catholic are all new to the section this season.
“It’s hard to get a pulse until teams play, until you get about three weeks in,” Dom Glavach said. “It’s really early, and until you start seeing guys play, it’s tough.”
As for Indiana’s program, it’s on solid footing. It’s running a full middle school program, and the outlook for varsity hockey is good, especially considering the varsity team went on hiatus for three seasons from 2008 to 2010.
“The future looks really good,” Dom Glavach said. “The group of players that is coming behind and the guys we have now, we’re very strong, very structured as a program. We’re on the same sheet of music and it’s full-speed ahead.”