The taunt came from someone in the Rowdy Rooters, directed at the Carrick bench during the first period: Hey, Coach, you can put the varsity in now.
If only it were that easy.
The Cougars, a well-regarded team in the PIHL Open Division, showed up to S&T Bank Arena with just 10 skaters, missing five of their top six scorers due to injury or illness, and Indiana breezed to a 12-0 victory in a non-section contest expected to be much tougher on the Indians.
Indiana (14-1) maintained its hold on first place in Section 3. The second-place team in Section 4, Carrick (9-7) just didn’t have its usual firepower.
The Indians pounced right on their lack of depth, outshooting the Cougars a whopping 43-5. Indiana potted three goals in the first period and exploded for six in the second. Andrew Roth and Jess Bartholow each had hat tricks, and Luke Lewandowski joined Bartholow with a four-point night.
Indiana has won five straight games.
“That’s just the way the schedule goes,” Indiana coach Dom Glavach said. “Not at all what we expected, not at all what we were prepared for, but the thing that I’m most happy with was we came out hitting on all cylinders.”
Included on the injured list were Carrick’s top three scorers. The Cougars dressed enough skaters for just two full shifts. Just one player with a double-digit point total was active.
Carrick was also playing the front end of back-to-back games. It plays host to Altoona tonight, so coach Matt Maurice saved starting goaltender Nathan Norkevicus for the Mountain Lions and sent backup Nick Abraham against Indiana.
“We prepped all week for their top line and their top goaltender,” Glavach said. “You give their coach some credit. They have a game tomorrow as well, and you look at that and say, Do I try and sweep, beat Indiana and Altoona, or go statistically and go for the split? So he doesn’t play his No. 1 goaltender, rests some guys. He said he’ll get two guys back off the injured reserve tomorrow. He’s looking big picture.”
Glavach didn’t know about Carrick’s depleted lineup until just before game time. His players came out prepared for a battle.
“Mentally we were focused,” he said. “From team dinner to when we took the ice, we were very, very focused. These guys had no idea. I see the scoresheet 10 minutes before the game; I’m not changing our focus. We came running, and I’m very happy.”
Bartholow, the lanky senior forward, drove play in the offensive zone all night and completed his hat trick early in the third period. Roth, a junior grinder, scored his third of the night shortly after that.
“It’s obviously fun,” Roth said. “It was my first hat trick ever. That’s a good experience.”
Roth can frequently be found causing trouble in the crease, but he doesn’t always get the glory. He jumped to seven goals on the season Thursday night.
“I was trying to eventually get my first hat trick,” he said. “I’ve got to give it up to (Ethan) Boyer and Jess, because they just moved me the puck all day long.”
Indiana had its third straight game with a hat trick. Bartholow and Jacob Clark each scored three goals in a 14-4 win at Greensburg Central Catholic last Thursday, and Bartholow scored four in an 8-1 win at Ringgold on Sunday.
The Indians, shoo-ins for the Chiefs Cup playoffs, have five games left before the regular season concludes Feb. 21. Indiana visits Greensburg Salem (10-6) on Monday. The Indians beat the Lions, 8-6, on Jan. 16 in Indiana.
“Our pregame team meeting was all about playing at playoff tempo,” Glavach said. “It’s February; if we’re not at that tempo now, it’s just not a switch you’re going to be able to reach back and turn on. … We came with everything. Regardless of opponent, that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see us really going and putting teams away, not letting them just hang around.”
Lewandowski had two goals and two assists. Tony Lenzi, Dominick Glavach, Jacob Miller and Clark added a goal each.