Middle school teams' success provides promise for Hempfield hockey
With first place on the line in Section 4, two of the top teams in the PIHL middle school division took the ice at Kirk S. Nevin Arena on Jan. 27 as Hempfield went up against … Hempfield.
That's right, the Spartans field two evenly split middle school hockey teams (blue and white) this season and boast a combined 25-1-2 record while offering a bright outlook for the future of Hempfield hockey.
Led by Kane Mills' hat trick and Christian Gorscak's three assists, the white team defeated the blue squad 5-2, but the final score did not quite reflect just how close the game was.
“I couldn't have been prouder of both teams,” said Gary Gorscak, head coach of both teams. “Watching them battle and it being as good a game as it was. Very close game.”
Gorscak wanted to remain impartial and let his assistant coaches run the two benches while he watched in the stands at center ice.
Leading the blue team to a 13-1-1 record and the white to a 14-0-1 mark, the two teams compose a total of 30 players who will soon look to make a positive impact on varsity head coach Denny Zeravica's team, a squad that is 14-2 in the PIHL Open Division this year after dropping down from the Class AAA level.
“It's a great feeling,” Zeravica said. “I give a ton of credit to Gary Gorscak. … He's been real instrumental in their success this year, and he's got those guys doing a lot of things that we're doing at the varsity level.
“So it's great for me to actually see not only their success throughout this year but just watching their game and seeing the type of game that he's got these guys playing because it's going to translate perfect into the varsity system we've got running.”
The system Zeravica is referring to is a 1-2-2 forecheck, a style that he has used with his varsity team and Gorscak instills with his middle school players to get them prepared for the future.
“One thing I embraced is Denny's way of play for the future,” Gorscak said. “So these kids, when they get to Denny, he's just fine-tuning them.”
With increasing numbers even starting at the developmental level of its program, Hempfield will look to continually grow.
But before Gorscak and the Spartans in the middle school ranks have a chance to move on to the next level, a postseason collision course appears likely if the two teams remain on their current paths.
“There's a chance that they could reunite again in the playoffs,” Gorscak said.
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.